By Kandis Leung
Cressida Dick was appointed as the Metropolitan’s police commissioner in April 2017. Ms Dick was the first woman to lead Britain’s biggest police force and was originally scheduled to end her contract in April 2022. In September 2021, the government offered Ms Dick a two-year extension. Much of the country was in uproar after the news broke. High-profile critics of Ms Dick have signed an open letter to Boris Johnson calling for her replacement.
Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, who died in a racist attack in 1993, and Lady Diana Brittan, whose husband was falsely accused of child abuse, are among the letter’s signatories.
In the letter, the signatories condemn the decision to extend Ms Dick’s contract and calls for reforms to be implemented by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). It said the conduct of Ms Dick and her inner circle “must be properly investigated.”
In March 2021, police found the body of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old Durham graduate, in a wooded area after she disappeared while walking home alone. A serving police officer has been charged with the kidnap and murder of Ms Everard.
On the 13th of March, more than 1,000 people took to the streets of London to pay their respects to Ms Everard. During the vigil, there was a confrontation with police, and several women were handcuffed and led away by officers. The police claimed that the four people were arrested for public order offenses and breaching Covid-19 measures.
Dispersal by force raised serious questions regarding police conduct, particularly around the treatment of women. Witnesses reported seeing officers dragging several women away from the scene. Patsy Stevenson, a 28-year-old physics student, was pinned to the ground by two male police officers. The photo of the arrests went viral online, and a large number of people have called for Ms Dick’s resignation and an overhaul of the policing system. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, criticised the police action as unacceptable. The Home Office has asked the Met to submit a full report on the operation.
In response to this, Ms Dick defended the police’s conduct and emphasised that she will not resign. A review conducted subsequently said the police “acted appropriately” and were not “heavy-handed” at Sarah Everard’s vigil.
Ms Dick also promised the Metropolitan Police was “committed to eliminating the disproportionate use of force on black Londoners.” However, the racial disparities in the Metropolitan Police’s use of stop and search during Ms Dick’s tenure are still controversial. Based on the Home Office’s own data, black people in England and Wales are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. Critics contend that the disparity is caused by racial discrimination among police and that the tactic alienates minority communities.
Perhaps the most damaging critique the Met has faced is institutional corruption. The report by the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel provides detailed examples of corruption, obstruction, and delay. Public trust will surely corrode further unless Ms Dick addresses this problem urgently alongside others.
Image: DaveCrosby via Creative Commons.