Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has publicly announced her resignation following months of calls for her to step down in the wake of numerous scandals involving the Met Police. This comes after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan put the commissioner ‘on notice’ and announced last week that he no longer had any confidence in her, thereby making her position untenable.
Some MPs have criticised Khan for his actions and claimed that it’s ironic for a Labour politician to remove the first female head of the force. However, if we are at a stage in politics and decision making whereby one’s gender is more important than performance, or lack thereof, we seriously need to rethink our priorities. Yes, let’s empower women in typically male dominated industries and sectors, but let us not conflate gender and standards.
The Met, and specifically Cressida Dick, have been a lightning rod for criticism from politicians and the public alike. Careless inaction in the lead up to the high-profile murder of Sarah Everard shone a light on chronic institutional failings, whilst Dick’s handling of its aftermath was widely regarded as incompetent at best. Since then, the lack of forthcoming change to police practices and culture, as previously promised, has only magnified how enfeebled her leadership had become.
The slew of complaints exposing the force as “institutionally corrupt” and highlighting the racism, sexism and homophobic language used by current and past officers has further undermined the force’s credibility and commitment to reform. While on the face of it many will be relieved by Dick’s exit and the opportunity for the force to rehabilitate itself, the road ahead will no doubt be an uphill battle for her replacement. The task of reforming the institution and enacting real change is a mammoth one and raises the ultimate question of whether or not it is realistically possible.
Crucially it has become clear that current standards and culture around recruitment, screening, and disciplinary action are in dire need of an overhaul, however, such a level of change requires years, not months. Regardless, with public confidence in the Met at a dangerously low level, action will need to be swift and substantive to start the process of regaining trust at all levels.
Finding the right replacement is crucial, so it’s far from ideal that the process will now be rushed due to Dick’s sudden forced departure. This serves as another reminder that Sadiq Khan must accept some culpability for the Met’s ineptitude, given that he is the person responsible for policing in the capital.
Khan’s decision to withdraw support from the Commissioner in the midst of the investigation into the Downing Street parties – fuelled by a perception that the weakened Dick was too dependent on the government’s support to properly investigate – has left the Met rudderless. It displays Khan’s short-sightedness in his attempt to out manoeuvre the government and further his own political ambitions. To be more precise, his decision was a calculated play, which is bad for the citizens of London, and lacks a contingency plan for the consequences of his actions.