The Home Secretary and Mayor of London have clashed over the sudden departure of Dame Cressida Dick as Metropolitan Police Commissioner last night.
Dame Cressida dramatically quit her position on Thursday evening after losing the support of the mayor over her plan to reform the Met following numerous scandals.
Mr Khan put the Met Police commissioner “on notice” last week after the police watchdog published messages sent by officers that used sexist, racist and homophobic language.
The home secretary had been braced for the London mayor to withdraw support in the next 3-4 weeks, Sky News understands, which the government understood would have made Dame Cressida’s position “unsustainable”.
It is understood the police chief was called to a meeting with the mayor at 4.30pm on Thursday over the reforms but declined to attend and offered her resignation instead, catching the Home Office by surprise.
Meanwhile, the Met has sought to reassure the public that its current investigation into alleged lockdown-busting parties held at Downing Street and across Whitehall will not be affected by Dame Cressida’s exit.
Met Police ‘partygate’ probe continues
The force, which was heavily criticised for an apparent hesitation to launch a probe into the alleged parties, said the investigation continues as normal and remains under the control of Commander Catherine Roper.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, Transport minister Robert Courts reiterated that the probe into lockdown-breaching parties will “not be affected” by the Met chief’s departure.
“It is a bit of a shame that the relationship has broken down between Cressida Dick and the mayor in the way that it has,” the transport minister said.
Mr Courts added that the home secretary will be recommending a replacement for Dame Cressida to the Queen “over the course of the next few days and weeks”.
He continued: “Police are very used to handling matters where there are different parties involved. They are totally independent and I have absolute confidence in their ability to operationally carry out an investigation.
“So they will do that and they will do that in a way that is independent – that will not be affected by the role at the top of the Met.”
Patel and Khan clash over Dame Cressida’s departure
It is understood that Mr Khan did not inform the home secretary of his intention to request a meeting with the commissioner, causing an increase in tensions between the pair.
Ms Patel was not impressed by this and thought it was “rude and unprofessional”, the PA news agency quotes one Home Office source as saying.
Sky News understands the home secretary had expected the mayor to withdraw his support of Dame Cressida in three to four weeks.
The home secretary will oversee the appointment of the new commissioner although the process requires her to consult Mr Khan when appointing Dame Cressida’s successor.
Mr Khan said he would be working “closely” with Ms Patel over the matter.
The mayor said his entire trust in the Met hinged on Dame Cressida coming up with a robust plan for dealing with the behaviour.
But he said he was “not satisfied” with the commissioner’s response and in a statement on Thursday evening, said: “On being informed of this, Dame Cressida Dick has said she will be standing aside.
“It’s clear that the only way to start to deliver the scale of the change required is to have new leadership right at the top of the Metropolitan Police.”
Speaking to Sky News, shadow international development secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “I think the mayor of London made a judgement that I do support.”
Dame Cressida had ‘no choice’ over resignation
Dame Cressida said she felt she had “no choice” but it was “with great sadness” she was stepping down.
“It is clear that the mayor no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue,” she said.
“He has left me no choice but to step aside as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.”
Dame Cressida added that she knew “the murder of Sarah Everard and many other awful cases” have recently “damaged confidence in this fantastic police service”.
Controversies under Dame Cressida Dick’s leadership
- In 2005, she was the officer in charge of the flawed operation which led to the death of a young Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes. He was mistaken as a suicide bomber and shot dead by armed police while on the London Underground.
- The force came under fire in March 2021, following the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer. Wayne Couzens, who was later sentenced to a whole life order, used his position as an officer to lure the marketing officer to her death. An investigation uncovered concerns had been raised about Couzens, nicknamed ‘The Rapist’ as far back as 2015. The Met were also criticised for their heavy-handed policing of a vigil in Miss Everard’s memory.
- In June 2021, a long-awaited report into the axe murder of a private detective accused the force of ‘institutional corruption’. An independent panel examining the unsolved killing of father-of-two Daniel Morgan in a pub car park found ‘multiple very significant failings’ during the initial Met Police investigation.
- In December 2021, an inquest into the four victims of serial-killer Stephen Port found Met Police mistakes ‘probably’ contributed to the deaths, with officers missing repeated opportunities to catch Port in 2014.
- In February 2022, the police watchdog condemned Scotland Yard officers for bad behaviours that included racism, misogyny, harassment and offensive social media messages. The investigation was initially launched following a complaint an officer had sex with a drunk person in a police station, but later uncovered so much more.
- The force has also been accused of acting too late when investigating alleged lockdown breaking parties held at No 10 Downing Street and across Whitehall.
The Met plagued by series of scandals
The Met commissioner has faced a series of scandals during her time leading Britain’s biggest police force – most recently concerning violently racist, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers based at Charing Cross police station that were published by a watchdog.
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said he believed Dame Cressida had been treated in a “wholly unfair” way and that she was “much loved across the rank and file of the Metropolitan Police Service”.
Following the announcement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked her for “protecting the public and making our streets safer”.
Ms Patel also paid tribute to the outgoing commissioner, adding: “She would be the first to say that she has held the role during challenging times; yet for nearly five years she has undertaken her duties with a steadfast dedication to protecting our capital city and its people, including during the unprecedented period of the pandemic.”
Critics welcome Dame Cressida’s departure
Campaign group Reclaim These Streets, which is bringing a legal challenge against the force over its handling of a Sarah Everard vigil, simply tweeted: “Good Riddance.”
Earlier this week, Scotland Yard revealed officers working on the ongoing investigation into 12 events, which has been named Operation Hillman, would this week start asking for the accounts of more than 50 attendees.
The news came just hours after a fresh photo emerged of the prime minister at a Christmas quiz in Number 10.
Mr Johnson is expected to be among the individuals who will, by the end of the week, start receiving legal questionnaires from officers working on Operation Hillman.
On Thursday, Downing Street confirmed the prime minister had not yet been contacted by police.