Met Police chief reappointment triggers backlash

Campaigners are calling for Dame Cressida Dick to be ‘properly investigated for her conduct’

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20:  Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick arrives for the unveiling of a memorial to PC Keith Palmer outside the Houses of Parliament on February 20, 2019 in London, England. Police officer Keith Palmer was killed during the Westminster terror attack in March, 2017 when a van was driven over Westminster Bridge and ending with the driver stabbing Mr Palmer at the gates of Parliament.  (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
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London’s Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick must not be handed a two-year extension to her term in office, victims of police incompetence and corruption have demanded in an open letter.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence, led the group of signatories to urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to find a replacement for the policing chief.

In a scathing assessment of her performance, they said she had “presided over a culture of incompetence and cover-up” and should not have her contract renewed.

Dame Cressida, 60, became the first woman to lead London’s police force when she was appointed chief in April 2017.

This week reports suggested the government had offered her a two-year extension to her five-year contract, which is due to expire in April.

The decision was said to have been made by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, in consultation with Downing Street and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Those with knowledge of the process say the offer was extended because those most likely to replace her were not considered to be suitable for the role.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, Baroness Lawrence and her fellow signatories wrote: “Dame Cressida Dick, who has presided over a culture of incompetence and cover-up, must not have her contract extended and must be properly investigated for her conduct, along with her predecessors and those in her inner circle, who she appointed and who have questions to answer.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by James Veysey/Shutterstock (11798757x)
A woman is arrested at a vigil in memory of murdered Sarah Everard. Patsy Stevenson
Sarah Everard vigil, Clapham, London, UK - 13 Mar 2021

“She should be replaced by an appointee from outside London, via a truly independent and transparent process.”

Dame Cressida was in March under pressure to step down over the force's handling of the vigil on Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard, who was murdered by Met Police firearms officer Wayne Couzens.

The force was met with a backlash after officers broke up the vigil and grabbed female demonstrators before handcuffing them and leading them away.

The other members of the group of seven critics who wrote the letter are Lady Brittan, widow of former Tory home secretary Leon Brittan, BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, Sir Edward Heath’s biographer Michael McManus, former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor, the brother of axe murder victim Daniel Morgan and the son of D-Day hero Lord Bramall.

They described themselves as “a group of concerned individuals seeking urgent and long overdue reform of policing, the police complaints system and, in particular, the Metropolitan Police Service”.

“Our stories and individual experiences are very different but we have all been victims of the incompetence and malpractice which pervades the leadership of the MPS," they said. "This includes racial discrimination, systemic corruption and the reckless and unjustified harassment of innocent people.

'After decades of equivocation and inertia, we are calling for immediate and decisive action from your administration.”

A Home Office spokesman told the PA news agency: "The appointment of the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service is a formal process which will be confirmed in the proper way."

Updated: November 22, 2021, 8:34 AM