Walking a tightrope: reflections on police gatekeeping roles in suicide research in Ghana

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Engaging non-conventional gatekeepers such as the police presents both promises and perils. Although studies have relied on police data for researching suicide and other sensitive topics in Africa, there is a paucity of literature that explores or reflects on police gatekeeping and its research implications. This paper presents authors’ reflections on police gatekeeping in a qualitative suicide study in Accra, Ghana. The main observation is that the process was double-edged. On the one hand, it led to field delays and costs, (mis)apprehensions and positionality problems, and trust building challenges. On the other hand, it vouched for research(er) credibility, provided therapeutic openings, and facilitated the viability of research with the suicide bereaved. Sensitivity to research context, sensitising the police, and reinforcing ‘therapeutic-research discourse’ with participants, are recommended means for aligning participants’ goals to research goals and for achieving therapeutic disclosures. © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.



Gatekeeping, Ghana, police, suicide research