Dame Cressida Dick ‘felt intimidated’ into resigning from MPS – report
Dame Cressida Dick “felt intimidated” into stepping down as head of the Metropolitan Police in February after an ultimatum from mayor of London Sadiq Khan, according to a report which found due process was not followed.
But Mr Khan said the review by Sir Tom Winsor into the circumstances of Dame Cressida’s resignation as Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner was “clearly biased and ignores the facts”.
The report said: “In my view, in this case, the commissioner faced political pressure from the mayor to resign, that pressure being of a character and intensity which was effectively his calling on her to leave office, outside the established statutory procedure and contrary to the wider legislative scheme.”
Deputy MPS Commissioner Sir Stephen House wrote to the Home Secretary “expressing grave misgivings due process not having been followed” after Dame Cressida announced she would resign.
Sir Tom said: “I have concluded that he was correct,” adding that “none of the statutory steps set out in section 48 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011” were followed when the mayor called on Dame Cressida to resign.
He said Mr Khan, through his chief of staff, gave her an “ultimatum” on February 10 2020, adding: “If the commissioner did not attend a meeting and convince the mayor that her plan of February 4, 2022 would be improved, he would make a statement to the media.
“That statement would make clear that he no longer had trust and confidence in the commissioner, and that he intended to start the statutory process for her removal.
“When the commissioner did not attend that meeting, the mayor’s chief of staff reiterated the mayor’s position and gave her less than one hour to decide what to do.
“She felt intimidated by this process into stepping aside, and I can understand that.”
Mr Khan responded: “Londoners will be able to see that this review is clearly biased and ignores the facts.
“On the former commissioner’s watch, trust in the police fell to record lows following a litany of terrible scandals. What happened was simple – I lost confidence in the former commissioner’s ability to make the changes needed and she then chose to stand aside.
“Londoners elected me to hold the Met commissioner to account and that’s exactly what I have done. I make absolutely no apology for demanding better for London and for putting the interests of the city I love first.
“I will continue working with the new commissioner to reduce crime and to rebuild trust and confidence in the police.”
Acting Commissioner Sir Steve House said: “I welcome the publication of this report. “I am pleased the Home Secretary was able to respond to my request for a review and I am grateful to Sir Tom Winsor for his thorough and impartial report.”
The force also released a statement from Dame Cressida Dick which said: “Leading the Met and serving the people of London was a wonderful privilege. My first priority was always their safety. I regret this report was necessary but I hope it will help create a sounder foundation for my successors.
“Sir Tom has written a highly detailed and forensic account of the circumstances surrounding my departure. He found the Mayor did not follow due process and at times his behaviour was oppressive, unreasonable, entirely unacceptable and unfair.
“At all times I sought to uphold the law and act ethically and with goodwill, professionalism, openness and trust. I fully respect the need for democratic oversight of policing. It is also important that politicians respect due process and do not break the rules.
“I hope this report is an opportunity for others to reflect on how City Hall functions and is held to account. The Met is a fantastic police service that is admired across the world. It performs many important functions for London and the country. Its officers and staff face many challenges.
“They can only succeed on a bedrock of independence and impartiality.”
Dame Cressida announced her plan to step down in February after Mr Khan expressed his displeasure at her handling of the response to racist, misogynist and homophobic messages shared by a group of officers based at Charing Cross police station.
She left her post in April and she is due to be replaced by Sir Mark Rowley.
In June, the MPS was placed in special measures by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.
In response to the report, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “In thanking Sir Tom for his report, I hope now that those responsible for delivering policing in London – as well as those responsible for holding the Met to account – will concentrate their efforts on delivering safer streets for the capital and restoring integrity in policing.
“Public confidence in the Met has been dented by a series of appalling incidents and it is vital that failings are addressed and professional standards restored to the level that Londoners deserve.
“The police need to ensure that they get the basics right, which should include a relentless focus on cutting neighbourhood crime and the serious violence that has blighted too many communities.”
The Chief Police Officers Staff Association (CPOSA) welcomed Sir Thomas Winsor’s findings that the former Commissioner of the MPS, Dame Cressida, was effectively “constructively dismissed” by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, following a lamentable series of errors by City Hall.
CPOSA is calling for an urgent response from government to ensure mayors and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) have an acute understanding of their role, powers and responsibilities when working with police leaders.
The chair of CPOSA, Chief Constable John Robins QPM DL, said: “Sir Thomas’ detailed report makes for shocking reading and CPOSA believes it is time for a reset in the way mayors and PCCs approach their relationship with chief constables.
“In most cases the relationship between a mayor or PCC and the chief constable is productive and benefits the communities they both serve. However, there are clear legislative provisions that must be followed if that relationship breaks down, which clearly did not happen in this case.
“It is clear in legislation that chief constables are not the employee of a mayor or PCC. Mayors and PCCs should not think they ‘employ’ the chief constable”, they do not. The misconception that a PCC or mayor can ‘dismiss’ a chief constable at their will is a profound mistake. This was never the will of Parliament when the legislation was introduced. Ending the appointment of a chief constable can and should only happen in accordance with the legislation and the options that it provides to do so.
“Dame Cressida is one of the most highly regarded and respected leaders modern policing has had. She certainly is the outstanding policing leader of her generation. London, Londoners and the MPS have lost an exemplary leader whose departure from policing extends well beyond the boroughs of the capital.
“CPOSA has and continues to stand by Dame Cressida in the way she was treated and will not shy away from tackling injustice in any form. It is right that this report lays out the injustice for all to see.”