Cressida Dick is set to become the first female head of the Metropolitan Police, taking over from Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe as Britain’s top police officer. Her appointment has been supported by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The 56-year-old former Scotland Yard officer, who had previously quit policing to take up a job in the Foreign Office, said outside New Scotland Yard that it was “an extraordinary privilege” and that she was “very humbled” to have been chosen. Sources close to Khan said that she outlined the best vision for reforming the Met while keeping the capital safe.
Her career in policing had seemed to be over, however her ascent to the top job is remarkable. She will become the first modern-era Commissioner of the Met to get the job without previously leading a police force. She had applied and failed to get the top job with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, eventually landing a role as a director general in the Foreign Office.
The new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force (Met) is faced with a difficult situation. She is tasked with saving hundreds of millions of pounds while keeping police officer numbers on the streets, all while the official police inspectorate has found that the force is struggling to handle regular crimes.
Cressida Dick is highly regarded in policing circles for her operational skills and strong ethical code. Before she can take up the role of Commissioner, she must be re-sworn in as a police officer, a legal requirement.
Dick, however, is associated with one of the biggest disasters in policing – the shooting of innocent man Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005. The jury at a criminal trial in 2007 exonerated her of any personal blame, but this did not stop his family from criticising her appointment. Patricia Armani, de Menezes’ cousin, said that she had “serious concerns” and expressed her worry that police officers can act with impunity.
Incoming Commissioner Cressida Dick faces a number of challenges, not least the scrutiny of her actions in the de Menezes case. Craig Mackey, current Deputy Commissioner, will fill the vacancy temporarily until she can start work.
Rudd hailed Dick’s appointment and set out some of the challenges faced: “She now takes on one of the most demanding, high-profile and important jobs in UK policing, against the backdrop of a heightened terror alert and evolving threats from fraud and cybercrime. The challenges ahead include protecting the most vulnerable, including victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“Cressida’s skills and insight will ensure the Metropolitan police adapt to the changing patterns of crime in the 21st century and continue to keep communities safe across London and the UK.”
Theresa May said Dick had “an outstanding record of public service” and “the exceptional qualities needed to meet the challenge of leading the Met”. The prime minister added that her skills and insight “will be crucial in shaping the Met as the job of police reform continues, coordinating the national response to the ongoing threat of terrorism and serious criminality as well as keeping Londoners safe. In addition, she will be a champion of the most vulnerable who the police are there to protect”.
Khan had early on identified Dick as his chosen candidate to be Met commissioner. He said: “She has already had a long and distinguished career, and her experience and ability has shone throughout this process.
“This is a historic day for London and a proud day for me as mayor … it was absolutely essential that we found the best possible person to take the Met forward over the coming years and I am confident that we have succeeded.”
The selection process for the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner was a rigorous one. The final four candidates were subject to long psychometric tests and two gruelling interviews. Dick, who is the child of Oxford University academics and a protégé of the former Met commissioner Lord Blair, was the chosen candidate. She began her career as a beat officer in 1983 and rose through the ranks to become assistant commissioner in 2009.
The other three finalists were Mark Rowley, the current Met head of counter-terrorism, Stephen Kavanagh, the current chief constable of Essex, and Sara Thornton, the current chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
With Dick’s appointment, five of the top posts in the criminal justice system in England and Wales are now held by women. These include Lynne Owens (director general of the National Crime Agency), Alison Saunders (Crown Prosecution Service), and Rudd and Thornton.