Are Cressida Dick’s days as Met police commissioner numbered?
Victims of police corruption and incompetence join forces to demand resignation
Cressida Dick is facing new pressure to step down as Metropolitan police commissioner after a panel of victims of “police corruption, incompetence and malpractice” signed a letter calling for her two-year contract not to be extended.
Led by Stephen Lawrence’s mother, Doreen, and Diana Brittan, widow of former Conservative home secretary Leon Brittan, the signatories said they had “no confidence” in the embattled commissioner following a series of missteps, the Daily Mail said.
The panel also includes BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor, who were wrongly accused of sex offences, and Alastair Morgan who has fought for police accountability since his brother Daniel Morgan was murdered in 1987.
Dick’s last brush with public scrutiny came after the Metropolitan Police’s much-criticised response to a peaceful vigil in memory of Sarah Everard in March. Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” over the police response to the peaceful vigil and will hold urgent talks with ministers, senior police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service today.
Two reviews have been launched into the policing of the event, one commissioned by the prime minister to be led by Dick and another so-called “lessons learned” review by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, commissioned by Home Secretary Priti Patel.
“Images of the police response have made for worrying viewing,” The Times says in a leader column, with women “forcibly removed from the bandstand at the centre of the vigil”. The response was “utterly tone deaf”, The Sun adds in a condemnatory leader. While lockdown restrictions have caused “difficulties” for officers, “how on earth did police find themselves forcibly restraining peaceful women mourners?” the paper asks.
Despite the criticism, it looks unlikely, for now at least, that Dick will be forced from her post. A senior Downing Street source told Politico’s London Playbook that Dick retained the “full confidence” of the prime minister. And Dick has remained unrepentant, “defending what happened to the max”, Politico’s Alex Wickham adds.
‘String of controversies’
When Dick was named in 2017 as the first female commissioner of the Met, “it was a significant moment” in the force’s 188-year history, The Telegraph says. “But a series of crises – many of which were beyond her control – have conspired to tarnish her time in post and frustrate her agenda”, the paper adds.
Her first day as commissioner came just weeks after the murder of PC Keith Palmer during a terrorist attack on parliament. Four more terrorist attacks on London would follow in the next six months, leaving 31 people dead. She has also faced criticism for the use of stop-and-search and a failure to drive down violent crime in the capital, with 2019 marking the highest number of violent killings in a decade.
But not every crisis has been beyond her control and Dick had been “embroiled in a string of controversies” long before she took up the top job, the Daily Mail reports.
In 2005 she was the commander in charge of the team that shot 27-year-old electrician Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head at Stockwell tube station, after police marksmen mistook him for a suicide bomber. And she sanctioned the “disastrous” Operation Midland in 2014, the Met’s investigation into “spurious” allegations of a VIP child-abuse ring, added the paper.
More recently, Dick came under fire after writing to the home secretary to urge her to use last summer’s Extinction Rebellion protests as a “much-needed” opportunity to change the law around protests, in a letter seen by openDemocracy.
But despite controversies that have impacted her leadership, The Guardian says she remains an “intellectually self-confident” commissioner, whose 30-year career and “wealth of operational experience” that “impresses the rank-and-file”.
The Daily Mail has suggested that the latest “extraordinary intervention” calling for Dick’s resignation could lead to her being “shown the door”.
In the “bombshell open letter”, signatories claimed that Dick “has presided over a culture of incompetence and cover-up” and must not have her contract extended. Instead, she “must be properly investigated for her conduct, along with her predecessors and those in her inner circle, who she appointed and who have questions to answer”.
However, The Times said that “despite controversies”, the 60-year-old is thought to have the Home Office’s support to stay on as Britain’s most senior police officer. Sources said that the extension “could be announced as early as Monday”.
Dick is understood to “believe that her work on her flagship issue of youth violence is unfinished, with some progress disrupted by the pandemic”.