Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick resigns amid criticism

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Cressida Dick at the funeral procession of murdered policeman Keith Palmer on April 10, 2017.
Image: User:Katie Chan.

The Commissioner of the London, United Kingdom Metropolitan Police (Met) Dame Cressida Dick resigned Thursday after losing the approval of London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Dick's resignation took place just hours after she assured BBC Radio London she had "absolutely no intention" of leaving the post. However, in her stepping-down speech she concluded Khan "no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue", adding the mayor had left her "no choice but to step aside".

Khan placed Dick "on notice" from February 2 to reform the police service, the day after a report on police conduct was released. The February 1 report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) concluded "disgraceful" incidents of bullying, discrimination, misogyny and sexual harassment. She survived a number of scandals from 2019, after she was accused, and cleared of "deliberately [misleading] the public" over the inconclusive Operation Midland investigation.

However, recent criticism centred around "institutional corruption" in the force, which Dick denies. It also involves racist, sexist, homophobic and Islamophobic remarks by some of its constables at Charing Cross railway station between 2016 and 2018. The February 1 report found that of the fourteen officers investigated for disparaging and sexist messages in two WhatsApp and one Facebook groups, nine remain serving. Additionally, two were promoted from constable to sergeant.

The force was also criticised for its belated investigation into Partygate, a number of gatherings held at Downing Street despite Covid-19 restrictions. Sources told The Guardian there was despondency in the Greater London Authority and Home Office over the Met's scandals, which some view as partially resultant from Dick's "defensiveness".

In a statement, Khan said he was "not satisfied with the commissioner's response" to his demands for "change I believe is urgently required to rebuild the trust and confidence of Londoners in the Met". He added reform was necessary "to root out the racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny that still exists." Khan found an initial meeting with Dick after the report surfaced was inadequate; she resigned ahead of another meeting.

A vigil for Sarah Everard in Sheffield on March 13, 2021 includes a sign for Reclaim These Streets, which is presenting a legal challenge against the Met for its handling of Everard's murder.
Image: Tim Dennell.

There is also discontent over the Met's handling of Sarah Everard's murder by Met officer Wayne Couzens. Four people attending a vigil in her honour last year were arrested for breaching Covid-19 restrictions. Furthermore, the force faced ridicule in October after informing women fearing an approaching officer to call 999. Otherwise, "shouting out to a passer-by, running into a house, knocking on a door, waving a bus down" were advised. This was accompanied by a new strategy against sexual violence and the formation of a dedicated unit against predatory offenders.

Both the Met and the government launched separate inquiries into the force's handling of Everard's murder. The independent government review is headed by Baroness Louise Casey.

In December, two constables were jailed for 33 months after taking and sharing photos on WhatsApp of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman. Their mother Mina Smallman rejected an apology by the force, accusing it of racism and "dehumanising our children".

In the earlier Radio London interview, Dick, then adamant she would not resign, said "enough is enough", adding she was "seething angry" about the February 1 report. She encouraged she be held to account, saying "it's a big job", but she was "doing her best". She maintained the Met was "hugely capable in so many ways. However, she acknowledged its reputation has been tarnished by the "awful [findings in the report] and also some other awful things that have happened and come to light in the last several months".

While she led a "real transformation" as commissioner to tackle bad behaviour in the Met, "I'm not complacent". She maintained "there could be and probably will be, over the coming months, some more examples which will be embarrassing or disgusting because we will be rooting them out". BBC correspondent Lauren Moss said while the Met had issued many apologies in the past, this was the first to come from Dick herself.

Reactions to Dick's resignation were mixed. Former IOPC superintendent and Met officer Nursit Mehtab told the i Dick stepping down was part of the radical action needed to combat a "sub-culture" of sexism and racism. Mehtab added: "The level of violence against women being expressed in [the Facebook and WhatsApp] messages damages the trust women and girls have in the police."

Alastair Morgan, brother of the murdered PI Daniel Morgan, told The Guardian "since [first interacting with Dick in 2012] all she has done in relation to my family is just delay, obstruct and disappoint on a huge level". While "it is a shame that we are seeing another commissioner disappear under a cloud of smoke, it is necessary." The sentiment was shared by activist organisations Reclaim These Streets and Sisters Uncut. Ricky Waumsley, whose partner Daniel Whitworth was one of the four targets of serial killer Stephen Port, was "glad". He said: "I held Cressida accountable for [Met] failures and made a statement that she should ‘resign with immediate effect’.

Calls remain to institute long-lasting change. Ruth Davidson of charity Refuge said "one resignation at the top doesn’t mean the police have solved their misogyny problem" and called for "root and branch reform" across the UK. Mehtab said "This is not just a few ‘bad apples’ which is a term that the Met keeps using to deflect criticism" for its behaviour. Journalist Robert Verkaik alluded the present scandals facing the force to the 1970s police corruption investigation Operation Countryman, which resulted in hundreds of Met officers resigning or retiring, and eight prosecutions.

Evening Standard headlines displayed at London Waterloo National Rail station announce the July 7, 2005 bombings.
Image: User:Ellywa.

However, Dick found support in the chair of the Met Foundation Ken Marsh, who said she "should have been given the opportunity and the necessary time to build back trust in the Metropolitan police service." Khan, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked Dick for her service. Johnson, former London mayor currently under investigation for his involvement in Partygate, said Dick "served her country with great dedication and distinction".

Khan promised to work closely with Patel to appoint a new commissioner "so that we can move quickly to restore trust in the capital’s police service while keeping London safe." Dick will continue serving in a caretaker capacity before a successor is decided.

Dick joined the force as a constable in 1983, and headed the anti-gang Operation Trident in 2003. As head of Operation Kratos following the July 7, 2005 London bombings, Dick was investigated but cleared of "personal culpability". She became the first female commissioner on February 22, 2017 after working in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from 2011, earning a salary of GBP230 thousand.

The i understands Khan is proud of Dick's record against violent crime, although the number of teenagers killed in London last year reached its highest level since 2008.