Mayor faces backlash over ousting of Scotland Yard chief Cressida Dick

Dame Cressida’s departure leave a ‘void’ at the top of the Met, the London Assembly police and crime committee chairwoman warned.

11 February 2022

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of leaving a “void” at the top of the country’s biggest police force after Dame Cressida Dick was dramatically forced out as Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

Dame Cressida quit on Thursday after losing the support of Mr Khan over her plan to reform the force following a string of scandals and accusations of a toxic working culture.

Susan Hall, the Conservative chairwoman of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, said Dame Cressida’s chaotic departure had been handled “extremely badly” by the Mayor.

“Confidence in the police at the moment is at an all-time low and this won’t help,” she told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

“Ninety-nine per cent of officers are very good, brave officers. They need confidence, they need support, and to have done this in this way, I think Sadiq Khan is completely wrong.

“It will leave a void at the top as opposed to a properly managed handover, which is no way to run a service like this.”

It is understood Dame Cressida was called to a meeting with the Mayor at 4.30pm on Thursday over the reforms, but declined to attend and offered her resignation instead, catching the Home Office by surprise.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was said to have been angered by Mr Khan’s failure to inform her of his intention to request a meeting with the commissioner, which she considered “rude and unprofessional”.

Ms Patel will oversee the appointment of the new commissioner and more details on how she will set about searching for a replacement are expected to be confirmed in due course.

She has the final decision on the next appointment, although the process requires her to consult Mr Khan as Mayor, who said he would be “working closely” with the Home Secretary to find a successor.

The search for a replacement by Ms Patel comes as the Met is investigating Government officials over lockdown-busting Downing Street parties, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He is expected to be among more than 50 individuals in No 10 and Whitehall who will by the end of this week start receiving legal questionnaires from officers working on Operation Hillman.

The Met, which was heavily criticised for an apparent hesitation to launch a probe into the alleged parties, said the investigation continues as normal and remains under the control of Commander Catherine Roper.

Priti Patel
The PA news agency understands Home Secretary Priti Patel was unaware of the Mayor’s request to meet Dame Cressida (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Dame Cressida has faced a series of scandals during her time leading Britain’s biggest police force – most recently concerning violently racist, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station that were published by a watchdog.

And there was fury over the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, as well as the force’s actions following her death in tackling a vigil held in her memory during coronavirus restrictions. There was also clumsy advice telling women in trouble to flag down a passing bus that later had to be retracted.

Rank and file officers reacted with sadness to Dame Cressida’s departure, with the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh protesting she had been treated unfairly.

Mr Marsh told PA: “She was much loved across the rank and file of the Metropolitan Police Service.

“We feel the way she has been treated is wholly unfair and we did believe that she was the person who could take us through this and bring us out the other side.”

But former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, whose house was raided by officers from the Met’s failed Operation Midland launched in reaction to false allegations by jailed fantasist Carl Beech about a murderous VIP paedophile ring, said he was delighted by the news.

“It is now time to clean the Augean stables so that a full inquiry can be conducted on all her personal mistakes,” he said.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) charity, said: “There were far too many stories of officers accused of violence and abuse still in their jobs, and of whistleblowers victimised instead of listened to.

“Cressida Dick’s response to these series of stories has been wholly inadequate and her description of Wayne Couzens as a ‘wrong un’ meaningless next to the mounting evidence of multiple allegations of abuse and policing failures to tackle violence against women and racism.”

Dame Cressida announced she was stepping down from the job on Thursday just hours after insisting she had no intention of going during an interview with the BBC.

In her statement, she said: “It is with huge sadness that following contact with the Mayor of London today, it is clear that the mayor no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue.

“He has left me no choice but to step aside as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.”

Mr Khan earlier this week indicated that Dame Cressida’s future hung in the balance over her response to problems with the culture within the Met, and how to restore the public’s confidence in the force by rooting out “racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny”.

On Thursday, he said: “It’s clear that the only way to start to deliver the scale of the change required is to have new leadership right at the top of the Metropolitan Police.”

Ms Patel, who reportedly had past clashes with Dame Cressida, praised the officer’s “steadfast dedication”.

The Home Secretary added: “She would be the first to say that she has held the role during challenging times; yet for nearly five years she has undertaken her duties with a steadfast dedication to protecting our capital city and its people, including during the unprecedented period of the pandemic.”

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