Hundreds of people have joined the police in the last three years who should not have been allowed in, the boss of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has said.
Speaking to Sophy Ridge on Sky News on Sunday, HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr said many officers had failed to declare “big red flags” such as “prior convictions”, “links with criminals that are too close and not explained” and “not being entirely honest on their application”.
He said: “Anybody who has got any blemish on their record shouldn’t automatically be disbarred from being a police officer, that just wouldn’t be fair.
“But where there is a question, where there is doubt, there should be measures put in place to monitor these people to keep a close eye on them, and that just is not happening either.
“This is systemic across policing. We’re always challenging the police as to what their priorities are, but I think the whole idea of just how important it is for policing that the wrong people don’t get in and the wrong people don’t stay in has not quite been recognised as being as important as it is.”
He said one in 10 of the officers his team looked at should never have made it through vetting, adding that it was not a random sample but it “still adds up to hundreds of people who have joined the police in the last three years that we don’t think should have”.
Mr Parr acknowledged that public trust in the police, and particularly the Met force, is “at a low ebb” after violent crimes committed against women by serving officers such as Wayne Couzens and David Carrick.
He said more needs to be done to rebuild that trust and the Met is in “special measures”, adding: “There is widespread recognition that there is an awful lot to be done.
“In the past I’ve described it as complacent, arrogant, defensive, and I think there has been a reluctance to accept the scale of the problems… it’s basic standards sometimes and it’s a culture across the Met, and perhaps wider policing as well, that isn’t where it ought to be.”
After the scale of Carrick’s crimes emerged last month, the Home Office ordered a major review of the police disciplinary process to ensure officers who “are not fit to serve the public” and “fall short of the high standards expected” can be sacked.
Vetting procedures are also to be strengthened and all officers checked against national police databases.
Carrick, who served with the Met for more than 20 years, admitted 49 criminal charges including 24 counts of rape.
There were complaints about his behaviour before he joined the force in 2001, then again as a probationer in 2002 and numerous times throughout his policing career until 2021.
He was suspended from duty in October 2021 when he was arrested for rape, and his pay was finally stopped in December 2022 when he admitted the majority of the criminal charges he faced.
Asked if rape has been “effectively decriminalised” because of a low percentage of reported offences ending in a conviction, Mr Parr said most, if not all, serving female police officers have had to endure sexual assault and inappropriate behaviour from fellow officers.
He added: “The culture of misogyny within policing is something that is there, it’s real and it has absolutely got to be dealt with.”
Sir Mark Rowley took over as Met Commissioner in September and Mr Parr said he believes the new leadership team has “smelt the coffee” and “understand that they can’t any longer write this off as a few bad apples”.
He added: “They’ve got a long way to go however.
“This is not something you’re going to turn around overnight, there are 42,000 people in the Met. And what they’ve got to get to is every one of those people behaving at all times in a way that the public has a right to expect.”