The Community Policing Unit of the Ghana Police Service was established in June 2002 with the setting up of the administration section and the Bicycle Patrol Unit. This came as a result of the realisation that there is the need for the police to collaborate with members of the communities, stake holders, Chiefs and opinion leaders in dealing withy crime.
In this vein, the unit started with the bicycle patrols which was made possible, when the International Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Programme (ICITAP) under the United States Department of Justice in conjunction with International Police Mountain Bikes Association helped the Ghana Police Service in training twenty  personnel for police bicycle patrols.
Today, the Bicycle Patrol Unit covers areas such as Osu, Labone, East Cantonment and Nima; after a pilot program in Labone proved successful.
The unit currently has 28 personnel made up of 3 Senior Police Officers, 2 Chief Inspectors and 23 other ranks.
STRUCTURE OF COMMUNITY POLICING
Community Policing is an emerging concept in policing which seeks to bridge the communication and interaction gap between police institutions and the communities that they serve. It aims at encouraging the establishment of a close relation with civil societies in order to give the police an opportunity to understand and appreciate the security needs and concerns of the various societies in which they operate. This method of policing leads to a situation where the police can work in partnership with local people to identify potential problems and take proactive steps in responding to them.
PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS
As community policing is a partnership between the officer and the citizen, commitment must be exhibited by both sides. Officers must show that they are committed to improving life in their communities by assisting the citizens and listening to them. Officers must also be able to solve problems brought up by the community effectively and efficiently. Likewise the community must be committed to helping officers identify and solve those problems. Citizens input incorporate a firm commitment to the value and necessity of policies and priorities.
Closely related to commitment is trust. New relationships are formed based on trust and respect between citizens and officers. With community policing, officers and the community can build supportive relationships. When trust has been instilled, the community will be more willing to assist officers keep the community safe.
c. Recognition of special needs
Community policing recognises that there are citizens, such as the youth and the elderly, whose needs may be different from each others. Many police stations have already implemented programmes or collaborated with others to provide programmes designed to prevent youth crime and encourage safety (e.g. traffic safety lectures for elementary school children, recreational activities, sporting events, and poster contents, etc).
d. Interest in community
Officers will obtain citizen support and co-operation when they display interest in input from citizens. Working with citizen groups on community based projects and with residents to enhance neighbourhood safety will ensure this. It is important that officers stay close to the community in order to forge links with local communities and reduce problems of crime and nuisance.
Community policing assist in developing and implementing new approaches to crime prevention based on local needs. As community policing sets out to meet local needs, it must be flexible for the problems of today and the problems of the future.
f. Moving from a reactive to a pro-active approach to policing.
Reactive Policing is about waiting for a crime to occur before responding.
Pro-Active Policing is about taking positive steps prior to the occurrence of crime to prevent it from occurring. Community Policing emphasises prevention, based on the common sense idea that although citizens appreciate and value rapid response and apprehension of wrongdoers (reactive), they would always prefer that their victimisation be prevented in the first place. The cornerstone for crime prevention is active citizens’ support and participation in programs.
In a democratic society, the police perform a number of functions which involves many tasks other than dealing with crime. Maintenance of social order is one of the prime police functions. Police are to maintain social order (social peace and tranquillity). They must strike the correct balance between public order and the exercise by individual and groups of their rights, and maintaining impartiality and not discriminating between individuals and groups seeking to exercise their rights. Limitations on the exercise of rights and freedoms can only be made by police in accordance with the law.
The under listed are also functions performed by Community Policing
• Responding to crime and emergencies.
• Maintaining public order.
• Tackling anti-social behaviours.
• Gathering intelligence.
• Assisting people in need.
• Maintaining safety.
• Be accessible to the public.
• Provide quality service.
• Interact with the public. Solve problems.
• Organizing public forums to sensitize people on anti-social behaviours.
Some advantages to be derived in adopting this new approach which we believe can completely revolutionalize existing policing methods and practices in Ghana are:
i. It allows officers to establish a close support based with local groups.
ii. It creates a fuller and deeper understanding of the crime issues affecting the communities.
iii. It leads to improvement in the quality of intelligence received from the communities.
iv. Police officers are likely to develop a greater sense of ownership towards and responsibilities for their respective areas.
v. Police in partnership with members of the communities can identify accurately potential crime problems and respond proactively to address them.
If the community is involved with the police, it will begin to demonstrate a communality of interest and belongingness, ensuring a sense of ownership and pride. Once citizens sense that they have control of their own destiny, positive change will occur. Community Policing will encourage citizens to work together to increase safety and security of their communities. Likewise, relationship with the youth, senior citizens, cultural, ethnic/religious organisations and government agencies will be enhanced.
Community Policing will change negative factors such as hostility, prejudice, apathy and ignorance to the positive co-operate image that will portray the service as sympathetic, accommodating, interesting and knowledgeable.
Finally, the community will regard the officers with confidence, trust and respect.
NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH COMMITTEE
Community Neighbourhood Watch Committee [formerly “Neighbourhood Watch Dogs] is simply an organised group of neighbourhood residents who watch out for criminals and suspicious behaviour and character and report to the local law enforcement agency. The programme involves people looking out for neighbours and becoming familiar with each other’s habit, vehicles and property while working hand in hand with local law enforcement agencies to promote security and cooperation. The concept therefore is an excellent cooperation between the police department and the citizens we protect.
Even though some neighbourhoods are more susceptible to crime than others all should consider establishing a neighbourhood watch program. No matter what type of neighbourhood you live in, the benefits are obvious. They include:
EFFECTIVENESS OF COMMUNITY POLICING AND NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH AND IT’S BENEFITS ON THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE COMMUNITY
PROMOTES NEIGHBOURLINESS: Neighbourhood Watch encourages residents to interact with each other, share information about work schedules, vacation plans, type of vehicles belonging to their households, etc. it also encourages neighbours to observe property of others and occasionally attend meetings to strengthen neighbourhood safety and security.
GREATER AWARENESS OF CRIME: Through neighbourhood watch groups, home security and personal safety are enhanced as residents become more aware of the threat of crime. Exposure to crime prevention techniques improves a citizen’s ability to remove and reduce opportunities for criminals to act.
ENHANCED REPORTING OF SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITIES: Residents are more aware of neighbours in their communities and are more inclined to report suspicious persons and activities to the police. Typically, as the calls for suspicious activity increase, the actual number of crimes committed decreases.
WARNING TO CRIMINALS: Neighbourhood Watch signs alert criminals that residents are concerned about crime and will call the police when suspicious activity is observed. However, signs alone are of little deterrent value when not backed up by an active Neighbourhood Watch Programme.
PREVENTION OF CRIME: The establishment of a Neighbourhood Watch Programme in a low-crime area is added assurance it will remain safe. Crime is rarely stationary and often moves from one neighbourhood to another.
Although it would seem that the prevention of crime would be the first benefit we would cite, promoting neighbourliness and a sense of community is one of the major factors in the prevention of crime and the success of the Watch Programme.
SOME ACTIVITIES OF THE UNIT IN PICTURES
Some Chiefs, Elders and opinion leaders present at one of the functions of the Unit in Nima, Accra
Personnel of the Community Policing unit on bicycle patrols.
i. Formation of more neighbourhood committees.
ii. Extend bicycle patrols to other regions.
iii. Continue educational campaigns on anti-crime in schools and communities.
iv. Another programme in our work plan is the Police/Community partnership forums.
These forums are meant to sensitise members of the Police Service and members of the various communities including work places on the ideals of Community Policing and crime prevention, thereby soliciting their support in implementation.
Embark on formation of police cadets in selected schools to assist in spreading anti-crime messages among peers.