Cressida Dick is facing pressure to resign as head of the Metropolitan Police in the wake of the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s killer. The Times’ Fiona Hamilton reveals that Wayne Couzens shared misogynistic, racist and homophobic material with five other officers via WhatsApp, while the Guardian reports that the police have accepted that they may have had enough clues to identify that Couzens was a threat to women before Everard’s murder.
Dick has unveiled several measures to tackle violence against women and girls – but she has announced nothing of substance to try to prevent similar abuses of power by the police. To make matters worse, her public statements, and those of the Metropolitan Police’s senior leadership, frequently make it seem as if she doesn’t even really understand the problem.
To use a mundane example: the reason the New Statesman has an expenses policy that means staff can’t just charge whatever they like is not because we are all incipient fraudsters, but because some people in this world are, and therefore businesses need to protect themselves. Likewise, a police force needs a strong safeguarding framework not because all officers are potential abusers, but because some might be and it’s important to ensure they are weeded out. The Metropolitan Police’s safeguarding procedures have clearly failed in this instance, and finding serious ways to change that (rather than urging women to challenge police officers in plain clothes on their credentials, which would not have saved Sarah Everard in any case) should be front-and-centre of the Metropolitan Police’s response.
To use another mundane example: in any given year, half a dozen headteachers will have to resign in the wake of a bad Ofsted report. That’s the cost of leadership: that’s part of setting standards and demonstrating that there are consequences to failure. There are a number of instances where Dick ought to have shown that leadership, and her failure to resign has now become in itself a reason why she should resign.
The only reason to disagree, as the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the policing minister, the leader of the opposition and the Mayor of London all appear to, is if you think that none of the 50 chief constables in the United Kingdom could do a better job than the Metropolitan Police’s current incumbent. Frankly, a cursory glance at the ratings given out by the Inspectorate of Constabulary ought to disabuse anyone of that notion.
And that’s the real scandal of Dick’s survival: that the political class doesn’t really believe that you can have such a thing as excellence in policing, and that this is as good as it gets.