The downfall of Dame Cressida Dick

women don't feel safe

Five years ago we celebrated the appointment of the first-ever female commissioner of the Metropolitan Police service, a turning point and success for women in male-dominated industries. Five years on we are left wondering what on earth went wrong and whether she ever had a fighting chance in the first place…

But looking back at the various challenges Cressida faced in her time at the Met, it feels almost as if the writing was on the wall for her from the offset – starting with the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, where Dick was gold commander, before becoming commissioner. Whilst she was cleared of any personal culpability, next came a wave of events that Dick was involved in and consistently cleared of having a hand in.

Whilst women everywhere felt a sense of success that a woman had taken the top job, it soon became a feeling of disappointment as Dick failed to hold the Met accountable for internal issues and failed to be a catalyst for change and a loud voice for women who now feel unsafe in the hands of the police.

Where did it start?

In 2019, Dick was criticised for her handling of Operation Midland, which looked into the allegations of child abuse by members of the establishment, resulting in no arrests after a long year and a half investigation. Not only was the investigation fruitless, but it came with a price tag of over 2.5 million. She was again cleared of any allegations of misling the public.

Dick said:

“The Met is committed to ensuring that we do all we can to minimise the risk of anything like this happening again.”

Gov.uk

A year later, Dick was again thrown into the spotlight when sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were found murdered in a London park. The family members that found them criticised the Met for their poor response to the reports of the missing women, saying the delay was due to race, and soon after two police constables tasked with guarding the bodies were jailed for taking selfies with the bodies and sharing them with colleagues and friends over WhatsApp. 

Dick said:

“The way we responded to information that Nicole and Bibaa were missing that weekend was below the standard we should have achieved and compounded the distress felt by their loved ones.”

Black Lives Matter

Again in 2020, Dick faced calls to resign after being accused of failing to recognise racism issues within the force. Stating that ‘labels were unhelpful’ people felt their concerns were falling on deaf ears and yet again failed to speak out and stand up for the people that needed her to.

Dame Cressida Dick said officers who knelt at London demonstrations following the death of George Floyd may have felt pressured by crowds. The Metropolitan Police commissioner said all officers in the force had since been banned from taking a knee at demonstrations or in other operations.

iNDEPENDENT

Dick was also behind the efforts of ramping up stop and search – opening up more concern around race and violence. Instead of making London feel safer, the efforts alienated black communities further, increasing police distrust.

Sarah Everard

And just as you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the police, with people feeling less safe in their hands and the reputation of the met deteriorating at an alarming rate – Sarah Everard was then murdered at the hands of an acting met officer. When women needed to feel secure and the people of the United Kingdom looked for solace and advice from those whose job it is to protect us, instead we were faced with lacklustre guidance such as waving down buses if we felt unsafe…

The met had a chance here to restore trust, double down on efforts to help people feel safe and they failed significantly, especially when they decided to respond to a vigil held for Everard in a brutalist manner, using force and arresting participants who were there to show their respects for Sarah.

Dick said:

I recognise that a precious bond of trust has been damaged. I will do everything in my power to ensure we learn any lessons. There are no words that can fully express the fury and overwhelming sadness that we all feel about what happened to Sarah. I am so sorry.

Snowball Effect

Once communications between Sarah’s killer and his colleagues were leaked that showed the dark side of the communications between acting police officers, a mix of misogyny and abusive themed messages towards women – it became apparent that the police have a huge culture issue that was larger than once thought.

It’s not all men…’ started to feel very much like it was.

Since Couzen’s sentencing, messages shared between officers have been revealed and reported – particularly in group chats – that joked about rape, domestic violence, killing black children and the Holocaust.

Too little too late?

Just weeks before her resignation, Dick was said to be adamant that she would not be stepping down when faced with more evidence of racist and misogynistic communications between officers being leaked by the minute.

In response, she told the met:

Put simply, there is no room in the Met for discrimination or prejudice: racism, homophobia, sexism, or any type of hate or disrespect will not be tolerated. If this is you, I have a message: the Met does not want you. Leave now.”

An email Dick sent to officers in the Met

And then there was Partygate…

Whilst the UK was being governed under strict lockdown rules, evidence emerged that the very people leading us were breaking their own rules and enjoying festivities in the form of parties and gatherings. Whilst everyday citizens were barred from holding the hands of their loved ones whilst they passed away, blocked from holding funerals in the traditional way, mothers were bringing children into the world without their partner by their side and mental health was on a vast decline… Downing Street hosted celebrations on more than one occasion.

Angry, we turned to the met and asked them to do their job… hold them accountable and uphold the law. Yet again, we were let down.

The force said it did not normally investigate breaches of coronavirus regulations ‘long after they are said to have taken place’.

Guardian

Whilst Cressida Dick’s resignation was likely welcomed by many, it does pose the question ‘How can the reputation of the police be turned around?’ How do we go about changing the public perception of a force riddled with evidence of racism, misogyny, homophobia and corruption? Where do we start and where does it end?

“Her track record shows a pattern of saying sorry and a refusal to relinquish her post.

This time, no apologies. This time, she goes.”

BBC News

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/feb/10/cressida-dick-timeline-a-commissioner-dogged-by-controversies

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-58514848

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/15/cressida-dick-reform-britains-police-trust-policing-anti-racist

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-60340525

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