The controversies that have dogged Dame Cressida Dick’s career

Despite several accolades, Dame Cressida’s career has been marred with controversy

10 February 2022

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is stepping down after a series of controversies.

The first woman to lead the Met, Dame Cressida said she was left with “no choice” but to resign after London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he had no confidence in her leadership following the publication of a damning report into racism, homophobia, and misogyny at Charing Cross police station.

Despite accolades, including being made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in Theresa May’s resignation honours, her career has marred by scandal.

Prior to being made Commissioner, she was head of the operation that led to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in Stockwell in 2005.

While in her role as leader of the Met, she faced criticism over the case of Sarah Everard’s murder at the hands of a serving officer, and the subsequent treatment by the police of mourners at a vigil in Clapham Common.

Wayne Couzens court case
Dame Cressida Dick makes a statement to the media outside the Old Bailey (David Parry/PA)

Two inquiries are now under way looking at the culture within the Met – one by Baroness Casey that was organised by the force itself, and a Home Office probe headed by Dame Elish Angiolini that is looking at the failures behind the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer.

– The Charing Cross report

A report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) revealed highly offensive language used on WhatsApp and in Facebook chats by officers from a now disbanded team based in Westminster, primarily at Charing Cross police station.

Last Tuesday, the watchdog took the unusual step of publishing the messages in full, despite many of them being too offensive to print as part of mainstream news coverage, because it said it was important for the public to know.

Officers made repeated jokes about rape, domestic violence, violent racism, and used homophobic language and derogatory terms for disabled people.

One officer bragged about having sex with a sex worker he met on duty.

Sadiq Khan put Dame Cressida “on notice” following the exposure of the messages, before eventually forcing her to resign by saying he had lost confidence in her leadership.

– Wayne Couzens

Ex-Pc Wayne Couzens was handed a whole-life term in September after kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard, 33.

Couzens abducted Ms Everard as she walked home from a friend’s house in Clapham, south London, on the evening of March 3.

The Metropolitan Police firearms officer, who had been “hunting” for a victim, used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch the marketing executive off the street using Covid lockdown rules to make a false arrest.

Couzens, had been assigned to the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection branch of the force, which protects Government buildings and the Palace of Westminster.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has since launched an inquiry into the crime.

Led by Dame Elish Angiolini QC, the inquiry will look at whether any “red flags were missed” earlier in his career.

– Sarah Everard’s vigil

Reclaim These Streets (RTS) proposed a socially-distanced vigil for Ms Everard, near to where she went missing in Clapham, south London, in March last year.

However, they were denied permission to hold the organised vigil, with police citing coronavirus regulations.

Instead a spontaneous vigil took place, which ended with police forcibly clearing women from the scene.

The force was heavily criticised for its actions, but later cleared by a police watchdog.

The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluded the police “acted appropriately” when dealing with the event, but also found it was a “public relations disaster” and described some statements made by members of the force as “tone deaf”.

– The death of Daniel Morgan

Daniel Morgan died in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south-east London, on March 10 1987, and a string of unsuccessful investigations into his death have been mired with claims of corruption.

In June this year, an independent report accused the Met of institutional corruption over its handling of the case, saying it had concealed or denied failings to protect its reputation.

Dame Cressida apologised to Mr Morgan’s family, saying it was a “matter of great regret that no-one has been brought to justice and that our mistakes have compounded the pain suffered by Daniel’s family”.

Fryent Park deaths
Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman (Victoria Jones/PA)

– The photos of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman

Pcs Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis, formerly of the Metropolitan Police, were jailed for two years and nine months each in December for taking photographs of the bodies of sisters Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, and sharing them with friends and colleagues on WhatsApp.

Jaffer and Lewis were assigned to guard the scene after the sisters were found dead in bushes in Fryent Country Park, Wembley, north-west London.

Instead, the officers moved from their posts to take photographs of the bodies, which were then shared with colleagues and friends on WhatsApp.

One was a “selfie-style” image on which Lewis had superimposed his face.

The officers’ behaviour also included describing the victims as “dead birds” on WhatsApp groups.

Afterwards, the Metropolitan Police apologised to the victims’ family for the defendants’ “shameful” and “utterly unprofessional” actions.

Fourth anniversary of Jean Charles De Menezes death
Friends and relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes (PA)

– The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes

Brazilian man Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station in south London on July 22 2005 by an officer who mistook him for a terrorist.

Dame Cressida came under scrutiny when she was in charge of the operation that led to his death, but was later absolved of any blame by a jury.

Appearing on Desert Island Discs in 2019, she described it as an “awful time”, adding: “I think about it quite often.”

“I wish, wish, wish it hadn’t happened, of course, but if anything it has made me a better leader, a better police officer and it has made me more resilient,” she said.

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