Policing 'more politicised' says Dame Cressida
Policing has become “more politicised” at a time when trust in the force has dropped, according to Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick in one of her first public speeches since stepping down from her role.
Dame Cressida resigned last month after London Mayor Sadiq Khan made it clear he had no confidence in her plans to reform the service.
Speaking at a conference in Dublin to mark International Women’s Day, she reflected on the social changes in the force since she began her career nearly 40 years ago, walking the beat in London’s Mayfair and Soho districts.
She told the International Association of Women in Policing event: “Like many other services, we have seen a drop in confidence in our service and we have seen policing becoming more politicised.
“Of course, quite properly given those events and, in particular, the murder of Sarah [Everard, who was murdered by a serving MPS officer last March], profound questions have been asked and we have asked ourselves about how inclusive are we, really?
“What more do we need to be truly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic – to be truly professional? What else should we be doing to reduce the scourge of violence against women and girls, which is truly endemic in British society and, I think, globally.”
Dame Cressida said she has “brought in a highly-respected independent reviewer to examine our culture in every aspect”.
She said the expert will work with a small team over nine months and look at “absolutely every way in which we behave and treat each other” before she makes recommendations for action and change.
She said the last two years have been “really challenging for everybody”, including those involved in policing.
She added: “The pandemic, social changes, political changes, economic changes, the dreadful murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global movements and latterly the massive upsurge in interest, quite properly, in the awful extent of violence against women and girls as a result of the appalling murder in London of Sarah Everard by one of my – our – serving police officers, and, of course, other high profile cases such as, recently, Ashling Murphy.”
Miss Murphy, 23, a teacher, was attacked and killed while running along a canal near Tullamore in Ireland in January.
Ms Everard, 33, was abducted in London by Wayne Couzens – under the guise of being arrested for breaching Covid guidelines – before he raped and murdered her.
Dame Cressida, the first women to head up the MPS, did not speak specifically about her resignation but urged people to support women and help overcome bias.
She said she worked in a fish and chip shop and at an accountancy firm before joining the force and they were “more sexist, more racist, and we broadly represented society’s attitudes to women and work. I am not naïve, for some colleagues it was downright miserable and unpleasant.
“But for many others, including me, I so am lucky I fell in love with policing. I found my mission, my passion, my niche, and we will always, are always and should be always full of hope.
“Back then, buoyed up by the feminist movement and new anti-discrimination legislation, we knew that the world would change. It may not have changed as fast as we would have liked but, my goodness, it has.”
She harked back to the MPS of many decades ago when she joined, drawing upon anecdotes of police firearms being carried in handbags by women officers.
She also recollected the Catch 22 rules that obstructed women from joining public order policing or dog handling, as she welcomed the huge strides feminism has made since the 1980s.
Dame Cressida also said how pleased she was to be able to deliver what will be one of her last formal speeches in person on a day when the Republic of Ireland’s police force celebrated 100 years of existence.
Among the controversies that have dogged Dame Cressida’s reign at the MPS include the fury at the way it handled a vigil held in Ms Everard’s memory during coronavirus restrictions.
Concern has been also been raised after racist, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at London’s Charing Cross police station were published by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Dame Cressida told the conference that only about 30 per cent of officers in the MPS are women, while 37 per cent of women form part of the overall force.
She said “there is much to do” in terms of recruitment and is hoping that something close to 1,800 or 2,000 women will be joining the MPS next year.
She ended by exhorting all to remember the importance of facing events with courage and compassion – just as those in Ukraine are having to do at the moment – and to carry that “flame of inspiration” back into their own forces and lives.