Priti Patel scrambles to replace Met Police chief Cressida Dick ‘as soon as possible’

Dame Cressida Dick was forced out of the role by London Mayor Sadiq Khan

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The resignation of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has caused a scramble to find a suitable replacement amid worsening relations between the mayor of London and the Home Office.

Sadiq Khan failed to inform Home Secretary Priti Patel of his intention to request a meeting with Dame Cressida.

Ms Patel was reported to be unimpressed by this and thought it was “rude and unprofessional”.

The home secretary now faces the task of searching for a new commissioner.

Dame Cressida announced on Thursday evening that she would be leaving her role as London police chief, saying she had “no choice” after Mr Khan made clear he had no confidence in her ability to lead the force.

Last week the police watchdog found evidence of “disgraceful” misogyny, discrimination and sexual harassment among Met officers.

On Thursday, Mr Khan said that following the report he had “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".

He said he was “not satisfied with the Commissioner’s response” and added that she had offered her resignation over the matter.

Dame Cressida’s announcement came as the Met prepared to make contact with about 50 people in Downing Street as part of the investigation into parties during lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to be among those who will received a questionnaire by email and will have a week to reply.

Government minister Robert Courts said it was only right that Ms Patel had authority to pick the new head of Scotland Yard because the role goes “beyond just London”.

During an interview with Sky News, the aviation minister was asked why Ms Patel did not leave the appointment of a Met police commissioner to the London mayor.

“There is a quite well-established procedure here where, because it is such an important role — the Met has roles beyond just London, they also have roles that touch national security as well — so it is right that the Home Office also has its level of involvement,” Mr Courts said.

“So the home secretary clearly has some key interests here for the whole of the UK.”

Mr Courts said it was important to fill the commissioner role “as soon as possible”.

It has been agreed that Dame Cressida will continue to serve for a short period to enable an orderly handover.

It is not clear how long this period will be. It is understood that further detail will be communicated in due course.

Mr Courts said it was regrettable that the relationship between Dame Cressida and Mr Khan had “broken down”.

“I think it is a little bit of a shame things have happened the way they have. It appears clearly that the relationship was broken down between the mayor and of course Dame Cressida,” he said.

Dame Cressida Dick arrives at New Scotland Yard, central London, the day after she resigned as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. PA

“That is a shame, but I think what we’ve got to do now is focus on the future and to start to address all of the issues that will cause the people of London concern.”

Asked to expand on why it was a “bit of a shame” that the relationship became unworkable, Mr Courts replied: “Clearly it is a key relationship, isn’t it, between the mayor and his chief police officer?

“It would have been better if that had been handled in a way that meant the relationship hadn’t broken down, but it clearly has — both parties have said that — so I’m just acknowledging the fact that that relationship has broken down, which is regrettable, but as I say, we are where we are, and we need to look to the future.”

Dal Babu, former Met Police chief superintendent, welcomed the news that Dame Cressida had been forced out of her job, saying she “had five years to put the house in order and I’m afraid she has failed”.

Mr Babu said Dame Cressida, who is the first woman to lead the force, had “failed to acknowledge the shortcomings” of the Met, and he said that trust in London police has “hit the floor”.

“It’s gone down and down and down. We need somebody new who’s able to do this in a more effective way,” he said.

Since being appointed Met Police commissioner in 2017 Dame Cressida has been dogged by various scandals. Among them was the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by serving officer Wayne Couzens.

The firearms officer had used his warrant card and handcuffs to snatch his 33-year-old victim from a South London street, using Covid lockdown rules to stage a false arrest.

Dame Cressida faced calls to step down over the incident, and Lord Stevens, one of her predecessors, said she must be held accountable for an “appalling series of blunders” that allowed Couzens to serve as an officer. Dame Cressida said at the time she felt sickened and that Couzens had brought shame on the Met.

The police chief also came under fire over the Met’s handling of a vigil in memory of Everard. Photos showing female demonstrators being held on the ground and handcuffed prompted outrage. A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services concluded the police “acted appropriately” when dealing with the event on Clapham Common, South London. However, it also found the event was a “public relations disaster” and described some statements made by members of the Met as “tone deaf”.

Ministers extended Dame Cressida’s tenure as commissioner in September, despite criticism. Her five-year tenure had originally been due to end in April 2022, but she was given an extra two years in the role.

The Home Secretary was said to be unsatisfied with the prospective replacements, and therefore chose to hand the current leader an extension.

Updated: February 11, 2022, 1:34 PM
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