In My View: Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell & Peckham

Cressida Dick, The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the most senior police officer in the UK, has announced that she is standing down early.

Clearly she had lost the confidence of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and her position had become untenable.

The next commissioner, who’ll be appointed by the Home Secretary, in consultation with the London Mayor, will need to do a much better job. And will need to rapidly turn the Met into a force that all Londoners can have confidence in. And that means ridding the Met of misogyny, racism and homophobia, and ensuring that the only officers in the force are those who, like the majority of officers, want to do a good job serving the public.

It was a disappointment for me to see the first woman Met Commissioner’s term of office end under a cloud.

But for some time it was evident to me that she’d have to go. She was popular with her officers, but I don’t think she was prepared to use her leadership to insist on necessary change, even where it would have been resisted by some officers.

When it became clear that the man who abducted and murdered Sarah Everard was a police officer, Wayne Couzens, she said that the force had “an occasional wrong’un”. But it was clear that it was not just “one bad apple” but that there was a wider problem of misogyny.

Couzens was in a WhatsApp group with other officers which was sharing lurid and misogynist messages.

There were other officers on a WhatsApp group who shared the tragic pictures of the murdered bodies of sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry.

There were officers at Charing Cross police station who shared misogynist, homophobic and racist tweets.

A black officer in Croydon recorded shameful “banter” in the canteen.

It’s clear that the Met’s screening and monitoring woefully fails even to identify let alone root out men who are totally unfit to be police officers who let Londoners down and bring shame on all the decent Met officers.

In her defence, Ms Dick complained that the police disciplinary procedures, which are laid down by Parliament, protect officers who ought to be dismissed.

But she never once told us London MPs that this was a problem or asked us to change those procedures, which we would readily have done.

The Met, under Ms Dick’s leadership, refused to allow the vigil to remember Sarah Everard to go ahead on Clapham Common and thousands of women came to the vigil anyway, and many were arrested.

And even this week the Met leadership have once again shown their ineptness.

They should have negotiated with the protesters who occupied the Russian oligarch’s central London mansion to protest about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Met cannot just be a representative sample of Londoners.

They have to be better than that. The processes for disciplining and dismissing officers need to be reformed.

Ms Dick either didn’t see the need to do this or didn’t know how to.

The next commissioner must set about it as his or her first task.

 

 


 

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