It’s another bad day for the Metropolitan police. The serial rapist former PC David Carrick has been given 36 life sentences and told he will not be released for at least 30 years. The details of the case are hard to believe: Carrick, known as ‘Bastard Dave’ to colleagues, has admitted using his status as a police officer to commit 48 rapes. The 48-year-old carried out a spree of dozens of offences against 12 women in a 17-year long campaign of depravity. The horrors of what Carrick did to his victims has led to another public examination of the inner workings of the Met. Once again, the force has been found wanting.
That policing has had, for nearly two decades, one of the most prolific rapists in British legal history serving as an officer is shocking enough. But it gets worse: there were nine separate occasions where Carrick came to the police’s attention for his off-duty conduct, yet nothing was done to protect the public. This is nothing short of gross institutional incompetence.
Policing has proven itself thoroughly unable to clear out its own stable. The vetting standards put in place by the College of Policing are either inadequate to the task or are simply being ignored by Chief Constables across the country. The Chief Executive of the College of Policing has claimed it’s the latter. He may well be right given the Home Secretary’s recent revelation that seven police forces didn’t even bother to respond to last year’s Government review of ‘vetting capacity’. The public certainly deserve to know which Chief Constables think they’re above such tasks.
As police chiefs seem unable to sort out this crisis on their own, the time has come for brave and rapid national political leadership. No longer can policing’s common defensive refrain of ‘operational independence’ be used to hide away from what must be done. The Home Secretary has already pledged to take steps to tackle the problems in policing. This is to be applauded. However, as the national political leader accountable for the state of British policing, she must go further and faster.
The review of police officer dismissals announced by the Home Secretary will apparently take four months, after which there will then be a further period of consultation if amendments to regulations are required. This is far too long. It is already clear that changes are needed now – the Met Commissioner and other Chief Constables have been saying so for months. They are surely deserving of the political support to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. If it is civil servants who are dragging their feet, then the Home Secretary should remind her officials who works for whom. The regulations must be amended within weeks so that the stable clearing can begin. This should then be followed by a wider review of the entire police performance and conduct regime.
If policing in Britain is to change for the better, there must also be consequences for failure. Astoundingly, some of most senior police leaders who have been responsible for recruitment, training, human resources, vetting, professional standards and oversight in recent years remain in place or have even been promoted. Some are currently sitting at the National Police Chiefs Council drawing significant salaries at public expense doing yet another series of tedious reviews. The Home Secretary, along with Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners, need to have the strength to step in and ensure there are consequences for those who remain in policing and have overseen what is a track record of public confidence obliterating incompetence. The public’s expectations couldn’t be clearer. As the sordid case of David Carrick once again makes clear, it is long past time for policing in Britain to change.
This was originally published in The Spectator Coffee House