Mayor will oppose Met chief who does not understand force’s ‘cultural issues’

The London Mayor’s lack of confidence in Dame Cressida Dick’s plans to reform the service led to her abrupt resignation on Thursday.

12 February 2022

Sadiq Khan has pledged to oppose the appointment of a new Met Police chief unless they have a “robust plan” to deal with the “cultural problems” that have led to a series of scandals at the force.

Writing in The Observer, the London Mayor said he was “deeply concerned” that public trust and confidence in the country’s biggest police force “has been shattered so badly”, which he concluded could only be rebuilt with new leadership at the top of the Met.

Dame Cressida Dick dramatically announced she was standing down as Metropolitan Police Commissioner on Thursday evening after Mr Khan made clear he had no confidence in her plans to reform the service.

Mr Khan wrote that he will “work closely” with Priti Patel on the selection of Dame Cressida’s successor.

While the Conservative Home Secretary holds the power over the appointment, she must take the Labour Mayor’s preference into account.

Mr Khan wrote: “I will not support the appointment of a new commissioner unless they can clearly demonstrate that they understand the scale of the cultural problems within the Met and the urgency with which they must be addressed.

“In short, they need to get it, and they need to have a proper and robust plan to deal with it.”

The comments could foment tensions that arose between the Mayor and Ms Patel over the manner of Dame Cressida’s departure, just months after the Home Secretary agreed a two-year extension to her contract.

Home Office sources said Ms Patel 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”.

Cressida Dick Resigns
Dame Cressida Dick arriving at New Scotland Yard on Friday (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Dame Cressida, however, chose not to attend after reportedly being informed that Mr Khan had no confidence in her plans for reform.

Sources close to the mayor said that it had been a regular bilateral meeting and that it was up to Dame Cressida to inform Ms Patel of her decision herself.

Ms Patel has said it would require “strong and decisive leadership” to rebuild public confidence in the Met’s “integrity and professionalism”.

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 a serving Met officer.

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, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station.

In his op-ed piece, Mr Khan said the revelations reminded him of “the bad old days of the Met” from his childhood.

He said that when he was growing up on a south London council estate in the 1970s and 80s, it was common to hear “stories of racist, misogynistic and abusive conduct by police officers”.

“One of the things I remember being told as a teenager by my dad was: ‘Don’t make eye contact with the police, don’t give them an excuse’,” Mr Khan wrote, adding that he had “seen and felt the damage that this kind of breakdown in trust can cause”.

He also said: “It has become crystal-clear that there are deep cultural issues within the Met.

“It’s my job as mayor to hold the police to account on behalf of Londoners, so it was my duty to act decisively as soon as I concluded that the only way we were going to start seeing the level of change urgently required was with new leadership right at the top of the Met”.

The process of finding Dame Cressida’s replacement comes as the Met is investigating gatherings, some of which the Prime Minister attended, in Downing Street when Covid-19 rules were in force.

Lord Blair, a former Met Commissioner, said Boris Johnson should recuse himself from involvement in picking the next Met chief while under investigation.

Lord Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “That’s a very difficult issue and I do accept that. I think Boris Johnson should recuse himself from being involved.

“But it’s an enormously important choice and presumably it will take some time to get to being to who the commissioner is, and by that stage presumably he will have filled in his questionnaire and the matter will be over.”

Downing Street confirmed on Friday night that Mr Johnson had received a legal questionnaire from Met officers investigating events in No 10.

He now has seven days to adequately explain his attendance or face a fine for breaking his own Covid regulations.

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