Cressida Dick hits out at ‘politicisation of policing’ in parting shot as she leaves Metropolitan Police

Women’s campaginers criticise commissioner’s ‘letter to London’ after it hails achievements and fails to name Sarah Everard

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Friday 08 April 2022 20:29 BST
Dame Cressida Dick outside Scotland Yard with an honour guard of officers to mark her departure
Dame Cressida Dick outside Scotland Yard with an honour guard of officers to mark her departure (Metropolitan Police)

Dame Cressida Dick has hit out at the “politicisation of policing” in a parting shot as she leaves the Metropolitan Police.

In an open letter to Londoners, the departing commissioner took what will be seen as a swipe at mayor Sadiq Khan amid a continuing row over her resignation.

“The current politicisation of policing is a threat not just to policing but to trust in the whole criminal justice system,” she wrote.

“Operational independence from local and central government is crucial for an effective democracy and is a model respected around the world. We must all treasure and protect it.”

The letter was published after Dame Cressida walked out of Scotland Yard to a guard of honour from saluting police officers on Friday, while being clapped and cheered by an assembled crowd.

It did not directly refer to the murder of Sarah Everard or a succession of scandals involving allegations of racism, sexism and corruption by officers, but Dame Cressida wrote that the force was rooting out “those among us whose horrific actions have let you all, and us, down so terribly”.

She added: “I’m sad my time in this great job is fast drawing to a close however I am extremely optimistic for the Met’s future. It is bigger, more diverse, more capable than ever.”

Dame Cressida announced her shock resignation in February, months after having her term extended by Priti Patel.

She said she had “no choice but to step aside” because Mr Khan had no confidence in her leadership.

The circumstances have become the subject of an escalating political tussle between the Home Office and City Hall.

In March, the home secretary ordered a review of the circumstances around Dame Cressida’s resignation by the outgoing chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor.

In a statement to parliament, Ms Patel said the circumstances “warrant a closer look at the legislation which governs the suspension and removal of the commissioner”.

It will cover the timeline of events and circumstances leading up to Dame Cressida’s resignation, consider “whether due process was followed” and make recommendations for the future, the Home Office said.

Dame Cressida Dick resigns from role as Metropolitan Police Commissioner

Mr Khan said on Friday that he would not “hide from the fact” he lost confidence in the commissioner.

Speaking at the launch of Labour's local election campaign in Barnet, north London, Mr Khan said: “I'm not going to hide from the fact that we've had in our city a series of devastating scandals, overt racism, sexism, discrimination, [and] homophobia. We've had trust and confidence from Londoners in the police service at rock bottom.

“It's one of the reasons why I lost confidence in her and it’s one of the things I’ll be looking for in a new commissioner – how they will address some of these serious issues that, frankly speaking, the current commissioner failed to address.”

In her letter, Dame Cressida said she would always look back on her time as commissioner “with pride for what has been achieved” and hailed drops in murders, shootings, stabbings and other types of violence.

She described the Metropolitan Police as a “world-class police service” that was a “wonderful place to work” and “far more diverse and inclusive than it has ever been”.

“Of course as I look back there is more I wish we had achieved,” she added. “We are listening and acting on what you tell us so we can change for the better.”

One of the co-founders of the Reclaim These Streets group, which won a legal challenge over the Metropolitan Police’s threat to fine members £10,000 for organising a vigil for Sarah Everard, said the letter was blaming “a few bad apples”.

“I wish Cressida Dick had used her parting letter to admit that there are institutional problems of misogyny and racism that she failed to get a grip on, and a damaging locker room culture that her successor urgently needs to tackle,” Anna Birley told The Independent.

“I hope her departure marks the beginning of the hard work needed to improve culture, tackle discrimination and build confidence in policing among women in the capital.”

The director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, which has supported several legal challenges against the Metropolitan Police over its treatment of women, said Dame Cressida’s loyalty to fellow officers “always seems to take precedence over public concerns”.

Harriet Wistrich added: “To describe the police as a ‘wonderful place to work’ is to turn a deaf ear to the horrendous misogyny, racism, homophobia and sexual violence we have heard about from officers within the Met. Her inability to respond effectively to this public concern has ultimately led to her downfall.”

Dame Cressida’s last day in post will be on Sunday, after which she will take unused annual leave, with her final day of employment being 24 April.

Deputy commissioner Sir Stephen House will temporarily serve as acting commissioner while a successor is recruited.

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