On Monday the 28th of March, Cressida Dick announced that she will officially step down in April from her position as Metropolitan’s Police Commissioner after months of mounting pressure to resign. But who really was Cressida Dick? What kind of legacy did she leave behind? And why did she resign? I’m Izzy McQueen with a special report on Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
A Long history in the force
Cressida Dick has a long 39 year history in the police force, after completing her Bachelor of the Arts degree in Oxford, she initially worked as a constable in the Metropolitan Police in 1983. Dick quickly found herself climbing the ranks from inspector to chief inspector a decade later, and then chief superintendent shortly after that. After her masters degree in criminology in the early 200’s, she became commander and head of the diversity directorate. Dick continued to succeed and become head of multiple operations, such as overlooking security for the 2012 Olympics, and subsequent positions in the following years until she was finally announced head Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 2017.
Cressida Dick on the announcement: “I could not be more pleased, to be appointed as the commissioner it’s beyond my wildest dreams”.
She was the favourite to become commissioner and hopes for the future of the Metropolitan Police under her watch were high. “The first female commissioner, the first gay commissioner as well, it was a momentous step” as reporter Danny Shaw described the reception of her in 2017. Dick vowed to reform the police force, however she found herself instead facing scandal after scandal.
Dick’s long history in the force before she became Met Police’s Commissioner was not without accused misconduct. Although she was largely welcomed into the position, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes protested her promotion from the start.
Jean Charles de Menezes
Upon Cressida Dick’s appointment, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes released a joint response stating that “The message of today’s appointment is that police officers can act with impunity.”
In July 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes a 27 year old Brazilian, was mistakenly repeatedly shot in the head in London’s Stockwell Tube Station after police thought he was a suicide bomber. Cressida Dick was gold commander in the control room for the operation at the time, and the responsibility was largely laid on her head. At the trials inquest she defended herself and her coworkers for their actions only leading to more distrust. “If you ask me whether I think anybody did anything wrong or unreasonable on the operation, I don’t think they did.” Although in the court trial the Jury cleared her of any blame, her family and many others never did.
Between 2014 and 2016 Operation Midland was run with Assistant Commissioner Dick which looked into ultimately false claims by Carl Beech of a paedophilic ring of torture involving influential prominent figures. The price of such a mistake not only cost around 2.5 million, but led to falsely guided searches of former home secretary Leon Brittan’s home just six weeks after his death in 2016.
Stop and Search tactics
Since her appointment, the commissioner has come under fire for how stop and search powers have sharply increased and powers expanded under section 60 in 2019. This has subjected ethnic minorities across the country to “relentless searching without a demonstrable, legitimate purpose and sometimes several times a day” as Tory MP Rehman Chishti stated in a home affairs committee in 2019. Since then, statistics released by the Government show that individuals from a “Black or Black British background were searched at a rate 7.0 times higher than those from a White ethnic group”.
Last year, Cressida Dick met calls from the public and senior MP’s to resign after the tragic kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard at the hands of serving officer Wayne Couzens in South London on the 4th of March 2021. Whilst home secretary Priti Patel defended the commissioner’s position, Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote in a public statement that women’s confidence in the police “will have been shattered” and a change of commissioner was needed to show change in the force. Criticism against the commissioner came again just 9 days after Everard’s murder with outrage over the aggressive policing and shutdown of a vigil for Sarah Everard in London as Channel 4 covered it.
The court ruled that the met police ‘breached rights of organisers’ of the vigil marking yet another failing in the Commissioner’s handling. Yet, the Commissioner yet again defended her decision to stay in a public statement: “What has happened makes me more determined, not less to lead my organisation, I’ve listened to what people have said in the last week, I know that in the streets all across the UK women don’t feel as safe as we would all like women to feel, I didn’t want it to end like that lets have a review.”
When the Downing Street Parties scandal initially surfaced, the Met police were called upon to handle the allegations. Yet for weeks the Met Police initially refused to investigate the alleged illegal gatherings. It wasn’t until a cabinet office enquiry was about to reveal its findings that Cressida Dick finally announced a criminal investigation, which subsequently meant that the investigation could not be published. Allegations that the commissioner favoured government members were responded to by Dick in a press conference in January.
These actions prompted renewed outrage at the Commissioner as the Met changed their decision over whether to intervene four times during the party’s scandal. On Tuesday this week fines were given to members involved. This investigation is still ongoing today, but to think that the Police were not even going to investigate the parties and now they hand out 20 fines just exemplifies the mistakes made by the Met Police Commissioner.
Charing Cross Officers revealed Whatsapp Messages
It appeared as though the commissioner was unsinkable. Able to escape situations and retain composure which others would not have been able to accomplish. However with the recent Charing Cross scandal, it appears the commissioners’ luck has run out.
On the 1st of February, Police watchdog revealed the Whatsapp messages of Charing Cross Police Station officers which were filled with racist and misogynistic content. The messages mocked BLM movement, disabled people, women and made jokes about rape. The pressure on the Commissioner this time not only came from the public, but from London Mayor Sadiq Khan who has allegedly ‘pressured’ her into resigning after putting her ‘on notice’, unsatisfied with her response to the Charing Cross scandal. Pressure which Priti Patel has announced will be investigated. The commissioner’s resignation came just hours after she insisted that she had ‘no intention’ of leaving her post. This clash of power from all three figures may have consequences on London’s Mayor.
Patel has described Khan’s interference in Dick’s resignation as a move which has blindsided her, and she has condemned it as an overall “shambolic” decision. Khan’s decision to not involve Patel in the fate of the Commissioner’s future has led to tensions between the two figures. Khan has the legal power to enact such actions surrounding Police Constables. Yet, Patel has since ordered a review into whether the Mayor followed proper procedures with the handling of the Chief Constable and plans to introduce new rules to diminish London Mayor’s power in such future decisions. This move has been criticised by City Hall for “wasting tax payers’ money” in a “politically motivated enquiry.” However, Patel’s punishment for Khan has not ended there. Patel’s new proposal announced in March for a First Past the Post (FPTP) system for mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections would make it easier for Conservatives to win in places such as London.
Dame Cressida Dick’s legacy is one filled with scandals. And one which has seemingly failed to improve and diversify the police force she controlled, driven to resign from the mounting pressure she faced. According to The Times, the commissioner will leave this post with a pension in excess of 100,000 a year. After 39 years in the force and five years as commissioner, do you think that such a sum should be rewarded to someone who has caused this many scandals and issues in their career? Let us know at our Twitter page @LSRpolitics on the poll, and find the podcast on Cressida Dick on our Spotify page Liverpool Politics Hour.