As appalling as the case of rapist police officer David Carrick is, I hope the 30 year jail sentence for the former London officer, brings some sense of justice, peace and stability back to the lives of his many victims. I realise it is not going to repair the harm done, or tackle the wider problem at hand, but his victims and other women are safe from him now. The UK government has made clear he will never be released from jail. Sadly however, this is not even the beginning of the work that needs to be done to ensure the absolute transparency, integrity and reliability of the police’s institutional response to allegations of criminal misconduct, corruption and other breaches of trust. The warnings and red flags around Carrick were there to see for a sustained period of time, and yet a well-resourced national authority, specifically designed to investigate crime, prevent it and arrest its perpetrators, failed to do any of those things, allowing a timeline not of enquiry and enforcement, but of rape, intimidation and avoidance.
The police have a vital and often thankless role to fulfill; we badly need them even more than we realise or care to admit. And decent officers everywhere will be as horrified and shocked by this case as anyone else, perhaps more so. But horror and sorrow and ‘lessons learnt’ are not enough. The Met leadership, the government and even the state security forces need to act swiftly, now, and with unflinching strength of purpose to implement reform and accountability protocols that leave nothing to chance.
Policing by consent is rooted in public trust
We need the police, but we need to trust them too and know that when failures occur, as they always will, the institution is found not to be swiftly covering its back, but has got the back of the public it has sworn to protect, and with whose permission it serves. In western democracies, despite some overstep, the police operate only with the consent of the people, a thing given in trust, democracy and good faith. Lose that trust, break that faith, then the consent of the public, however theoretical it sometimes may be, could be lost forever, and a force designed to protect society — half of whose number are women — becomes something that looks more like the enemy of the people, not its staunchest defender, a role demanded by the norms of our democracy, the governing conventions and traditions gifted us by our rich history and experiences, and by the basic human need for societal stability and decency that we all deserve.