Sir Mark Rowley, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, said the force had not dealt with questions about its integrity with “the ruthlessness and clarity” it employs against criminals after one of its officers was convicted of 49 serious offences.
David Carrick, 48, a firearms trained officer, attacked at least a dozen women in an 18-year period during his career with the Met. He used his position to gain their trust and scare them into staying silent.
Some of the victims suffered multiple rapes and humiliating abuse, including being locked in an under-stair cupboard.
Carrick came to the attention of police for nine incidents — including allegations of rape, domestic violence and harassment between 2000 and 2021 — but faced no criminal sanctions or misconduct findings.
Speaking on Tuesday, a day after Carrick was convicted, Sir Mark apologised and said he was on a mission to rebuild trust in the force.
He told Radio 4: “Over 20 years the Met got this wrong. From the moment he joined, through various incidents and issues that came to light during his career, there were multiple opportunities to stop him joining or to have him leave the service.
“This is about weak decision making and professional standards and not joining the dots between related incidents and poor policies. And that all comes together to mean he was a police officer for 20 years and for a large part of this he was a predatory rapist.
“What he did to those women was awful and their courage in reporting it is quite remarkable.”
Sir Mark said he returned to policing after a four-year break to lead the force last September to “rebuild” the Met’s integrity.
“We have been too weak on this systematically for some time. Independent reviews have shown that.”
Sir Mark told ITV’s Good Morning Britain most of the Met's officers and staff are “great people, but we have not been tough enough at guarding our own integrity.
“We haven’t dealt with these issues, day in and day out for years, with the ruthlessness and clarity that we deal with criminals. And that’s what we’re getting on top of.”
He said there are some officers serving in the force who need to be identified and removed.
Asked if he could guarantee that a woman visiting a police station to report a sexual offence would not meet a police officer whose past behaviour was now under review, or who was tolerating similar behaviour in their department, he said: "I can't, I'm not going to make a promise that I can't stick to," he said.
"I'm going to put in place ruthless systems to squeeze out those who shouldn't be with us.
"Most of our officers are fantastic, the people who specialised in this area are great and they have the skills. But do I have some officers who shouldn't be in the Met that I've got to identify and get rid of? Yes I do, and I'm completely frank about that.”
Carrick was accused of two offences against a former partner the year before he passed vetting to join the Met in 2001, and faced further assault and harassment claims involving an ex-girlfriend in 2002 while in his probationary period.
He had five public complaints to his name but passed checks to become a firearms officer when he transferred to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command in 2009 and was revetted in 2017.
The force admitted Carrick had a reputation among colleagues for being “mean and cruel”, but said it was not to do with any sexual conduct and colleagues had made no complaints about him.
Carrick was arrested for rape by Hertfordshire Constabulary in July 2021 and placed on restricted duties.
He was cleared to return to work when the allegation was dropped, but never returned to full duties because he was suspended after being arrested in connection with a second rape complaint in October 2021.
The woman came forward as a result of the publicity after Wayne Couzens, 48, was in September 2021 given a whole life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard.
The complainant said she and Carrick went for drinks in a pub in September 2020 after they met on dating app Tinder, and she claimed he showed her his warrant card and boasted of meeting famous people in the course of his work, including then-prime minister Boris Johnson.
The rape allegation and subsequent publicity sparked a wave of complaints, and although that charge against Carrick was dropped after he pleaded not guilty, he admitted 49 offences relating to another 12 women between 2003 and 2020.
Carrick, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to 43 charges at the Old Bailey in December and the final six at Southwark Crown Court on Monday.
They include 24 counts of rape against nine women, but some of the charges are multiple incident counts, meaning they relate to at least 48 rapes.
Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb remanded Carrick in custody for sentencing over two days from February 6.
The case is the latest in a string of damaging scandals for the Met, including Ms Everard's murder, offensive messages exchanged by a team at Charing Cross, and the strip search of a teenage girl at school while she was menstruating.
Dame Cressida Dick stepped down as commissioner after criticism over the controversies last year and the latest revelations are a major setback for her successor Sir Mark's attempts to clean up the reputation of the force.
Dame Louise Casey, who is already carrying out a review of the culture in the Met, called for a full inquiry into the Carrick case and said she would carry out the work if necessary.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Londoners will be rightly shocked that this man was able to work for the Met for so long, and serious questions must be answered about how he was able to abuse his position as an officer in this horrendous manner.”
Detective Chief Inspector Iain Moor, from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit, said the “sheer number of offences” showed Carrick's “prolific and callous nature”.
Hertfordshire Constabulary have set up an online portal for other victims now expected to come forward with further allegations against Carrick.