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11 February 2022

What prompted Sadiq Khan to finally move against Cressida Dick?

Under pressure from City Hall, the Mayor of London told the Metropolitan Police commissioner that they were at “crisis levels of trust among Londoners”.

By Ailbhe Rea

Cressida Dick has abruptly resigned as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, after the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, dramatically withdrew his support for her leadership.

Readers will be familiar with the long string of scandals that Dick has overseen in her time as commissioner, and the many previous calls on her to resign. From the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, and the culture in the Met that her death exposed, to longstanding issues of racism, bullying and incompetence in the force, there have been many previous moments where Dick could have been forced to go. But after each of those, she promised change and continued in her role, until now.

So why now? A report last week into the culture among officers at Charing Cross police station in London was the last straw for the mayor of London. The report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) “found evidence of discrimination, misogyny, harassment and bullying” (to quote the report itself) and, unusually, published messages exchanged between officers, including comments about beating their wives, rape and killing black children.

These comments prompted shock and deep distress across social media. Khan was personally disgusted and said that it reminded him of “the bad old days” of the Met of his childhood in the 1970s and 1980s. When it was revealed that nine of the 14 officers investigated by that report kept their jobs – including one who was later promoted – Khan’s frustration was compounded. He heard from Londoners of their distress at those revelations wherever he went in the days that followed, but the pressure also came from closer to home – our Britain editor, Anoosh Chakelian, understands there was deep frustration at City Hall that Khan had not acted sooner to remove Dick.

In a “very long, very forthright” 90-minute meeting, the mayor told Dick that they were at “crisis levels of trust among Londoners” and demanded immediate action. But, unsatisfied with her response, yesterday he withdrew his support for her leadership and she announced her resignation.

It marks an end to a period of paralysis at the top of government and at City Hall over Dick’s leadership. One minister privately told the New Statesman last October that there was a feeling Dick should resign or be fired in the wake of the Everard sentencing, and that she didn’t step aside revealed the dire state of leadership in the police. Khan will have been reticent to remove Dick when the Home Secretary is the one who chooses the successor, while the government has struggled because there is not an obvious replacement, something they have acknowledged in the recent past. It helps, too, that Dick has been seen by some as sympathetic to Boris Johnson.

Those close to Sadiq Khan insist that this move changes nothing for the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the parties at No 10. There is an “iron wall” between those investigations and the political side of things, and the team of officers working on that case will not change. But Dick’s departure, even though she will stay on for a brief period to “oversee a smooth transition”, leaves the Met fundamentally leaderless during the most high-profile investigation in its modern history. 

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