London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s lack of confidence in the Commissioner’s plans to reform the service led to her abrupt resignation on Thursday.
13 February 2022
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has described the way in which London Mayor Sadiq Khan pressured Dame Cressida Dick into resigning as chief of the Metropolitan Police as “rather odd”.
Dame Cressida announced she was standing down as Met Commissioner on Thursday evening after Mr Khan made clear he had no confidence in her plans to reform the service.
Mr Lewis said Mr Khan, who had been “very keen” to appoint her but now “seems to have had a volte face in just the last week”, had “possibly” been playing politics.
He told Times Radio: “I think he should’ve been consulting with the Home Secretary, bearing in mind this is a man who just a couple of months ago extended Cressida Dick’s contract.
“For me, yes, I think he should’ve been talking to and working with the Home Secretary, particularly so close to a time he extended a contract himself – it does seem to be a rather odd position for him to have taken.”
Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel holds the power over the appointment of Dame Cressida’s successor but she must take the Labour Mayor’s preference into account.
The resignation comes just months after Ms Patel agreed a two-year extension to Dame Cressida’s contract.
Home Office sources said the Cabinet minister was angered by Mr Khan’s failure to inform her that he had called Dame Cressida to a meeting on Thursday afternoon, which she considered “rude and unprofessional”.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Ms Patel has been “silent on policing for a year” when much-needed reforms have been needed.
British officers police by consent and reforms to areas including training, vetting, misconduct, challenging any internal culture issues, and helping to keep women and girls safe, “which currently too many feel that they’re not”, have been needed to help back that up.
Ms Cooper told BBC One’s Sunday Morning programme with Sophie Raworth: “Once that confidence was lost then the Met Commissioner was right to resign, and I support the mayor’s decision.
“But what I am concerned about in all of this debate is it’s all focusing on one individual, one individual new appointment, and also one police force.
“I think the challenges for policing are much broader than this and there needs to be Home Office-led reforms in this area as well.”
Ms Patel reportedly wants an outsider who can reform the force’s culture instead of senior officers “inheriting” the job, according to The Sun on Sunday.
She has told allies she is determined to end the “Buggins’ turn” system whereby appointments are made by rotation rather than merit, it has been reported.
Mr Khan has pledged to oppose the appointment of a new Met Commissioner unless they have a “robust plan” to deal with the “cultural problems” that have led to a series of scandals in the force.
Writing in The Observer, he said he is “deeply concerned” that public trust and confidence in the country’s biggest police force “has been shattered so badly”, which he concluded can only be rebuilt with new leadership at the top of the Met.
Mr Khan wrote that Dame Cressida’s successor will have to understand the scale and urgency of dealing with the Met’s cultural problems, and added: “In short, they need to get it, and they need to have a proper and robust plan to deal with it.”
The “real cultural” problems in the force cannot be fixed overnight, according to former HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham.
She told Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “Whoever the incoming Commissioner is, they will have a very, very full inbox. They will have precisely the same problems that Cressida was contending with to deal with.
“The problem is that at the root of this there is a real cultural issue in the Met that needs to be unpacked, unpicked and dealt with.
“We know that is not going to happen overnight but that needs to be at the top of the new Commissioner’s inbox.”
Dame Cressida had “care, compassion and candour” and “really generated great loyalty amongst the frontline troops” but was overtaken by “catastrophic events”, according to Ms Billingham.
She added: “She was walking an incredibly tough tightrope, post the appalling killing of Sarah Everard and the erosion of public trust. She really needed to focus on rebuilding that trust while at the same time maintaining the confidence of her own staff.”
Dame Cressida’s departure follows a barrage of criticism of the force, including over its handling of the case of Sarah Everard, who was murdered by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens.
The force has also been criticised for being slow to investigate reports of parties in Downing Street and Whitehall in breach of Covid restrictions.
The final straw, however, was a report by the police watchdog which exposed violently racist, misogynistic and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station in central London.