The Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has bowed to growing criticism of her handling of several scandals and announced that she is stepping down.
Dame Cressida had been facing calls to resign for months but the pressure intensified last week after the release of a damning internal report that exposed widespread racism, misogyny, harassment, homophobia and bullying among officers. There has also been growing outrage at the Met’s delay in launching an investigation into allegations that 16 parties had been held at Downing Street in violation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
For days, Dame Cressida had defended her management of the force and insisted that she would not quit. But on Thursday she finally relented after meeting with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
“It is with huge sadness that following contact with the mayor of London today, it is clear that the mayor no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue,” Dame Cressida said in a statement. “He has left me no choice but to step aside as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.”
The Met has been reeling from revelations in last week’s report from the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The IOPC found pervasive evidence of disturbing behaviour among a group of officers in the Charing Cross division in central London. During a three-year investigation that ended last September, the IOPC reviewed thousands of text messages exchanged by officers and found many that were “highly sexualized, discriminatory or referred to violence.”
“You ever slapped your missus? It makes them love you more,” said one of dozens of texts that were included in the report. “If I was single I would happily chloroform you,” said another text that was sent to a female officer. One officer was nicknamed “mcrapey raperson” in a WhatsApp exchange because he allegedly routinely had sex with women at the police station.
“We believe these incidents are not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few ‘bad apples,’” the IOPC said. “An underlying culture allowed conduct issues to permeate and behavioural problems went unchallenged.”
The report came as the Met was already reeling from the fallout from the murder of Sarah Everard last March by constable Wayne Couzens. A separate inquiry began this week into allegations that officers ignored repeated red flags about Mr. Couzens and had nicknamed him “the rapist” because he made female colleagues uncomfortable.
Amid all that, two officers were recently convicted of sharing crime-scene photographs of a pair of murdered sisters, and labelling the women ”dead birds” in a WhatsApp group.
“The murder of Sarah Everard and many other awful cases recently have, I know, damaged confidence in this fantastic police service,” Dame Cressida acknowledged in her statement Thursday. “There is much to do – and I know that the Met has turned its full attention to rebuilding public trust and confidence. For that reason I am very optimistic about the future for the Met and for London.”
The commissioner is appointed by the Home Secretary in consultation with London’s mayor. Both had questioned Dame Cressida’s future since the IPOC report and Mr. Khan had indicated that he’d “put her on notice.”
“Last week, I made clear to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner the scale of the change I believe is urgently required to rebuild the trust and confidence of Londoners in the Met and to root out the racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny that still exists,” Mr. Khan said Thursday. “I am not satisfied with the Commissioner’s response. On being informed of this, Dame Cressida Dick has said she will be standing aside.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel thanked Dame Cressida for her service. “She would be the first to say that she has held the role during challenging times,” Ms. Patel said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also thanked Dame Cressida for her work. “Dame Cressida has served her country with great dedication and distinction over many decades,” Mr. Johnson said in a Tweet.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.