British policing is going through a bad time. A few weeks ago, David Carrick, 48, a former officer for London’s Metropolitan Police (the Met) and now convicted serial rapist, was given 36 life sentences and told he would be ineligible for parole for 30 years. The details of his case make for disturbing reading. Known to colleagues as “Bastard Dave,” Carrick admitted to abusing his role as a police officer to commit at least 48 rapes. He admitted to 49 charges spread over 17 years, including 24 counts of rape, against 12 women.
The Carrick case cannot simply be written off as a case of “one bad apple” in British policing. The Met also employed Wayne Couzens, who in 2021 kidnapped, raped, and murdered 33-year-old Sarah Everard. She became the 16th woman killed by a serving or retired policeman in the past 13 years in the U.K. Meantime, in Gwent, South Wales, police officer Ricky Jones committed suicide in 2020 after subjecting his wife to decades of abuse. Because of Jones’s ties to the force, his widow had felt unable to report the abuse during his time as a police officer. After his death, his mobile phone was found to contain thousands of WhatsApp and Facebook messages—some describing in graphic detail the sexual harassment of female colleagues—exchanged with serving and retired officers.
Last November, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services for England and Wales published a report into vetting and police misconduct at eight police forces nationwide, including the Met. The report examined 725 files relating to the evaluation of police candidates. In almost one-fifth of the cases, clearance was described as “questionable at best.” The report uncovered situations in which the Met hired officers with criminal records, including some serious crimes; some had family members linked to organized crime, while others had convictions for sexual assault. One had been charged with rape 20 years before joining the force. Another officer, jailed in 2011 for raping and abusing women he had arrested, had been charged with a serious sexual assault before he joined the force.
After public outrage from the Everard case ensued, and a few weeks before the release of the report, the Met appointed Baroness Louise Casey of Blackstock, a sitting member of the House of Lords, to review the Met’s culture and standards. Among other problems, Casey found that it takes an average of 400 days to investigate allegations of misconduct, and that 20 percent of those involved in misconduct claims had been involved in more than one other case.
These failures are coming to light as the British public is increasingly calling into question the basic competence of police. According to YouGov data, Britons trust the police less than they did four years ago. Meantime, crime is rising: in England and Wales, 4.1 million offenses were recorded in the first nine months of 2022—an increase of 12 percent over the same period the year before. Yet, the police are catching fewer criminals: of 1.5 million thefts in England and Wales last year, only 4.1 percent resulted in a charge or made it to court.
The police clearly need stronger vetting procedures. They also should spend more time and effort recruiting individuals dedicated to tackling crime and less on advancing diversity quotas or recording trivial disagreements between people as non-crime “hate” incidents.
Accountability is also desperately needed. The inspectorate’s report observed how those responsible for recruitment and hiring have remained in their positions for decades. Some have even been promoted. Home Secretary Suella Braverman and senior police and crime commissioners must ensure that those who have overseen these shocking failures of professional competence face serious consequences. As the Carrick case makes clear, policing in the U.K. must change.
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