The Government of Ghana announced an ambitious objective to turn the Ghana Police Service into a world class force over the next decade. To help with this objective, and with the full approval of the Inspector General of the Ghana Police Service, the research team, led by Dr Donna Harris, carried out research on how to reduce corruption in the traffic police in Ghana.


Corruption has long been one of the major obstacles to improving economic efficiency and reducing poverty in developing countries. In many places, corruption has become a norm - a way of life - something that is generally accepted as a behavioural standard. How do we change a corrupt norm? The aim of this project is to address this question, based on recent research by the Nobel Laureate Professor George Akerlof, through innovative policy interventions. One of the key ideas is that if you want to change people’s behaviour, it helps to give them a new role or ‘identity’, and new narratives that convey a sense of purpose. Our research aims to do just that in the Ghana Police Service to try to combat possible corruption.


We ran a training programme aimed at creating a new identity for the traffic officers or the 'vanguards/future of the Ghana Police Service'. Support networks were established for the trained officers to reinforce the new identity and provide a 'safe space' for the officers to share stories and discuss obstacles in their daily duty and work together to co-create solutions. Senior officers who have been trained will also act as role models and mentors to junior officers to strengthen this support network. 
The training was co-created with the Research and Planning Directorate of the Ghana Police Service and advised by Inspector Bruno Schettini from the Brazilian Federal Highway Police, who has successfully created the first National Police Academy in Brazil. The training method is interactive and immersive using insights from Behavioural Economics and Psychology. The focus is on tackling conflict of interests, norms, and multiple social identities, and how to maintain professionalism and ethical standards when faced with these challenges.


Our findings from a survey and an incentivised cheating game conducted by phone 20 months after the implementation of the program, show that the training was successful in its primary objective of shifting officers’ values, beliefs and perceptions related to unethical behavior, as well as their own willingness to engage in such behaviour, as measured through an incentivised cheating game. The training also significantly affected officers’ attitudes toward and relationships with citizens. We see no impact, however, on officers’ reporting of unethical behaviour, their monitoring of subordinates and their perceptions of corruption in the police. We find no evidence of spillovers from trained to untrained officers, which suggests that active participation in the program is necessary for changes in attitudes and behaviours to occur.

In line with our expectations, the program operated primarily on officers who were intrinsically motivated to serve the public when they initially joined the police, and on younger, lower rank officers. Overall, we conclude that our ethics training program had a significant impact on police officers’ values, beliefs and propensity to engage in unethical behaviour, as well as their attitudes toward citizens. While the localised context of our study and the relatively small sample size make it desirable to replicate the program in other settings, we see our study as an important first step toward a better understanding of the role that carefully designed ethics training programs, centred around individual and shared identities, may play in shifting preferences and behaviours of police officers and, possibly, other service providers.


Project timeline

January 2018 - December 2022


ghana associations logos


Proud to Belong is a short film about the Brazilian Federal Highway Police's fight against corruption, featuring Inspector Bruno Schettini.

Proud to Belong - the Brazilian Federal Highway Police's fight against corruption