From Dixon to Carrick

Following the latest scandal involving the Met, Eddie Ford agrees with SWP’s call for the abolition of the police. But then what?

Recent headlines have been dominated by the shocking story of David Carrick, a serving police officer with the Met. A member of the elite Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection squad since 2009, he was arrested in 2021 and later pleaded guilty to a total of 49 charges, covering 85 serious offences - including dozens of rapes - against 12 women between 2002 and 2021. His sentencing hearing will begin on February 6.

Meeting some of the women on dating websites, Carrick waged a campaign of terror and humiliation by seeking to control every aspect of their lives - what they wore, what they ate, where they slept and he even stopped some of them from speaking to their own children. He would sometimes ban them from eating altogether. And if his victims threatened to speak up, Carrick told them they would never be believed, as he was a police officer. Carrick also admitted to false imprisonment offences, having on a number of occasions forced one of his victims into the small cupboard under the stairs at his home. The Met was forced to apologise after it emerged that Carrick was brought to the attention of police over nine incidents from 2000 to 2021 - including allegations of rape, domestic violence and harassment. But nothing was done. Sir Mark Rowley, the current Met commissioner, said on BBC’s Today programme that the Carrick revelations represented a “spectacular failure” by his force.

Dubbed “bastard Dave” by his colleagues, Carrick was only brought to justice after one woman came forward in the wake of Sarah Everard’s killing in 2021 by Wayne Couzens - another member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection unit. She reported that Carrick had date-raped her a year earlier. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, said the case would now also be considered in the inquiry which was set up to look into the abduction, rape and murder of Everard. We are now informed that a total of 1,633 cases of alleged sexual offences or domestic violence involving 1,071 officers and other staff from the last 10 years are finally being reviewed by the Met, in order to find out if the appropriate decisions were made. In the words of Vera Baird, former Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales: “The Metropolitan Police seem incapable of not employing - and furthermore retaining - some quite evil people.”

Interestingly, now that reporting restrictions have been lifted, we also discover that part of the reason why Cressida Dick was so abruptly ousted as Met commissioner last year by London mayor Sadiq Khan was precisely because of the Carrick scandal.


However, rather than dwell in detail upon David Carrick’s terrible crimes - which you can read about elsewhere - it is more constructive to consider Socialist Worker’s editorial comments on the story (‘What we think’ January 17). Though there are differences of nuance, when it comes to the finer details, we in the CPGB fundamentally agree with the comrades.

The front cover of the story has the headline, “Now abolish the Metropolitan Police” - perhaps giving the impression that it is only in London that there is a problem. However, the rest of the article, carried inside, makes it clear that this is not the case. The police reflect the system that they serve we are told: “The police are institutionally sexist because their job is to reinforce the power structures and the role of the state.” They go on to say that “because [the] police uphold the system, they reflect its ideas” - which is “why Carrick, Couzens, racists, bullies, homophobes and sexists are pulled towards it”. Therefore, for the SWP: “Now it is even more clear that the police don’t protect us. They abuse us. Police reform, inquiries and reviews aren’t enough. We must abolish the police.”

We need to understand that the Met (or Scotland Yard) is about five times bigger than any other police force in England, Scotland or Wales, and one of the biggest in the world. It has over 49,000 employees with an annual budget of £3.24 billion. Additionally, it is also responsible for some specialised matters throughout the entire UK, such as coordinating and leading counter-terrorism and the personal safety of specific individuals like the monarch, senior members of the government, etc. It is a huge force that is formally accountable to both the London mayor and home secretary. Of course, the police is an arm of the state - but the Met is run, at least in part, directly from the home office, which makes it different from all the other police forces.

In reality, contrary to what the SWP appears to be saying, the police are not simply full of racists, bullies, homophobes, sexists, etc. Instead, as studies reveal, you get a division between rank-and-file and the top brass. So the head of the Met will know all the right phrases, how to present themselves to parliamentary committees and the media in general - say all the politically correct things. There is little doubt that they have thoroughly internalised the ideology. They are committed to institutional anti-racism and anti-sexism - in that sense they are neither secret racists nor perfidious liars. When police tops look at the rank and file posting obscene messages, or serving Met officers who have been done for rape and murder, they are genuinely horrified. Like a couple of years ago when a pair of Met officers “dehumanised” two black sisters who had been stabbed to death by taking and sharing photos over WhatsApp from the murder scene they were guarding.

In turn, the Met itself is divided between various police stations that have, for example, a gay-friendly culture and others that are completely the opposite. So in many stations if you come out with anti-gay remarks your colleagues will be on to you straightaway, demanding that you be sent on a diversity awareness training course, or something like that. In others, you will get a totally different response. But a sense of being dumped on by those above, of fighting a losing war against a lawless, disfunctional, society and outright contempt for the lower orders is self-reinforcing throughout the police force at the bottom.

We need to understand the true nature of the police, going back to the foundation of the modern system by Sir Robert Peel in 1829. It is not really about catching rapists or murderers - that is more a by-product of its central job, which is to preserve law and order. That is, maintaining the rule of capital against the threat of the working class and radical elements in society. In Britain, the 19th century Chartist movement knew perfectly well what the Peelers were all about: a weapon to be used against them.


Regrettably, that part of our history has been more or less forgotten in Britain. We have had the carefully nurtured myth of the local bobby, exemplified by the very long-running BBC series, Dixon of Dock Green.1 Played by Jack Warner, the eponymous Dixon was a decent chap who was a bit like your favourite uncle and embedded in the local community. Warner recalled a visit by the late queen to the studios where the series was made, where she commented that “she thought Dixon of Dock Green had become part of the British way of life” - praise indeed! The series was actually written by Ted Willis - or Baron Willis - who in the 1937 was elected chair of the Labour League of Youth. In 1939, along with much of the LLY’s leadership, he joined the Young Communist League! He was elected general secretary in 1941. However, Willis soon abandoned hope and made his peace with the Labour establishment. He was awarded a peerage in 1963 for services rendered.

However, the image of the friendly, honest bobby on the streets - traditionally not armed with firearms, but a sturdy, head-cracking, truncheon - has taken a severe battering over the years. In fact, to the point now where a respectable head teacher warned her pupils at an all-girls school “not to allow a lone policeman to approach you at any time” - do not trust them.2 That is how bad things have become. Dixon would be turning in his grave.

As mentioned, the Socialist Worker editorial concludes that “we must abolish the police” - not just the Met. True, but then the question comes - what do you replace it with? Surely the SWP is not seriously suggesting that nothing should replace the police, which would be close to madness. Whenever we in the CPGB have moved the idea of a popular militia - a traditional concept for all radicals going back hundreds of years - the response of the SWP, like most on the left, is to titter and guffaw like philistine liberals. In other words, they are programmatically naked, programmatically adrift.

The police are an alienated, anti-working class force, which needs to be swept away. As Engels famously explained in his 1893 pamphlet, Can Europe disarm?, the popular militia is the ideal body for us to make revolution, say through rank-and-file mutiny, and to defend the revolution against counterrevolution. Made up of ordinary people, everyone aged between 18 and 60 being active in it or held ready in reserve, living amongst ordinary people, with discipline coming from below, the popular militia is also the best answer we have when it comes to public safety, preventing anti-social behaviour and ensuring basic order.


  1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixon_of_Dock_Green.↩︎

  2. bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-64344935.↩︎