Belfast Telegraph

Cressida Dick: She's Britain's top policewoman and a star of the Met ... now she is in the running to be new PSNI chief


Britain's most senior ranking female police officer is in the running for the PSNI Chief Constable's post here, the Belfast Telegraph has been told.

With a Policing Board panel due to meet tomorrow to draw up its shortlist, this newspaper has been told that Cressida Dick has applied for the job.

She is currently an Assistant Commissioner with the Metropolitan Police and recently spoke in Belfast at the Senior Women in Policing Conference.

"She would be seen nationally and internationally as one of the most senior players on the policing market," a senior British police source said.

"She has been at the top end of complicated policing for many years," the source added.

In July 2005 the Met officer was "gold commander" in the police operation that ultimately led to the controversial fatal shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in London.

Ms Dick was cleared of blame for his death.

There has been no comment from the Policing Board on the number of applicants for the top PSNI post. But this newspaper understands it has attracted interest from London, Belfast and from within the Garda Siochana.

In January, current Chief Constable Matt Baggott announced his decision to retire later this year. Interviews to appoint his successor are scheduled for May 29.

Definitely in the field is PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton who has past experience with Strathclyde Police.

His policing responsibility with the Scottish force was for crime and public protection and, for months now, he has been talked about as the front-runner to replace Mr Baggott.

"It's George Hamilton's to lose," a senior source told this newspaper back in January.

"You've got to understand the place," one observer commented.

But others were always going to be interested in this job – still viewed as one of the most prestigious policing posts in the United Kingdom.

There was even speculation that Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, may apply to return here. He has not, and nor has Mark Gilmore, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire.

Nine Policing Board members form the interviewing panel.

They are the MLAs Jonathan Craig (DUP), Gerry Kelly (Sinn Fein), Dolores Kelly (SDLP), Ross Hussey (UUP) and Chris Lyttle (Alliance), plus independent members Anne Connolly, Professor Brice Dickson, Joan O'Hagan and Gearoid O hEara.

Before tomorrow's meeting to draw up a shortlist, the Board meets today with a likely focus on this week's damning judgment of the policing of flag protests over several months spanning late 2012 into early 2013.

That judgment highlights the continuing challenges for policing here and for whoever fills the top PSNI post.

The focus is not just on what is often termed the "new policing" agenda that has been developing for over a decade since the Patten Report introduced sweeping reforms, but also the challenges of policing in an environment often dominated by the past and by parading controversies.

A huge policing effort was needed to hold many lines last summer and another difficult and divisive marching season is just around the corner.

Speaking to this newspaper back in January, a senior police source was also highly critical of the Policing Board. "They have made it [the Chief Constable's post] such an unpleasant role," the source commented. "It sound like a battle a day – a siege."

Although figures have yet to be confirmed, sources suggest only a small number of officers have applied for the Chief Constable's post here.

Dick rose from ranks and survived shoot-to-kill controversy


The most senior female police officer in Britain, Cressida Dick started her career as a beat constable in the West End of London in 1983 and within 10 years had been promoted to chief inspector.

Her rapid rise continued, and she is now Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police – the world's second largest force after the NYPD in New York.

She also holds the Queen's Police Medal for distinguished service.

However, she was embroiled in one of the biggest controversies to hit the Met when she commanded an operation which led to the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian man who police mistook for a suicide bomber.

Born in 1960, Cressida Dick is the youngest of three children.

She grew up in Oxford, and her parents were both academics at the university.

Dick studied at Oxford High School and Balliol College, becoming one of its first female graduates.

After a spell working for a large accountancy firm, she joined the Met in 1983, policing the streets of London's West End.

Ten years later she joined the accelerated promotion course at Bramshill Police College, and in 1995 transferred to Thames Valley Police as a superintendent.

She was seen as typical of a new breed of police officer – those recruited with the expectation of making it to the top because of demands for a more complex managerial approach to law enforcement.

Indeed, after her posting to Thames Valley, she took a career break and completed a Masters in criminology before returning to the Met as commander in 2001.

Later Dick became the head of Operation Trident, which investigates gun crimes within London's black community.

Already she was being talked of as a potential first female Met commissioner.

However, Dick was a key figure in one of the biggest crises to hit the force.

On July 21 2005, two weeks after the 7/7 attacks rocked the capital, four attempted bombings disrupted part of London's public transport system.

In the immediate aftermath Dick was appointed "gold commander", responsible for "tactical delivery" on the ground.

She was the designated officer for Operation Kratos – the Met's codename for special tactics to deal with a suicide bomber, including shooting to kill without warning.

On July 22, officers shot and killed Mr de Menezes at Stockwell station after he was mistaken for failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman, one of four men who tried to set off bombs on the London transport network the previous day.

Her actions were scrutinised in great detail during an Old Bailey health and safety prosecution and an inquest.

She was adamant that she had given orders only to stop de Menezes, not to shoot him, and rejected allegations that she was feeling anxious.

"I wasn't anxious. I rarely get anxious. I don't have anxiety," she told the court.

In a rare move, jurors ruled against the force but said Dick should be absolved of any personal culpability.

Her career continued to progress and, in September 2006, she was promoted to deputy assistant commissioner of the Met.

Len Duvall, chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority who signed off the promotion, described her as a very capable officer.

In June 2009 she was made Assistant Commissioner in charge of the specialist crime directorate. Two years later she replaced John Yates as Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Operations, following his resignation over his handling of the phone hacking scandal. She also had a brief spell as Acting Deputy Commissioner.

Last year Dick was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by Woman's Hour on Radio 4.

Whoever fills the hot seat will be faced with many problems


There have been some big names in policing over the past two decades or so – Sir Hugh Annesley, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Sir Hugh Orde and then Matt Baggott.

And, back in January, when the current chief constable announced his decision to retire later this year, the focus immediately turned to who will be next in that line.

We are still waiting for confirmation of applicants and who will be on the shortlist for interview at the end of this month, but a source who has spoken to this newspaper is adamant that Cressida Dick is in the race.

She is someone of high rank, higher than that of the local contender for the job, George Hamilton.

There has been talk in recent times of the learning gap between assistant and chief constable. "There's a fundamental difference between leading a highly complex organisation and being part of a senior management team," one senior police source commented. "The critical advantage of the deputy's position is that it enables the individual to experience the complexity of command and responsibility."

George Hamilton has not been a Deputy Chief Constable.

But there is another argument made about what Mr Hamilton could bring to the table. He has a deep understanding of the operations environment and understands the politics. He knows this policing landscape with all its complexities.

So, despite Cressida Dick's entry into the race, the process of selecting a Chief Constable remains a competition and not a foregone conclusion.

There is talk that there may also be a candidate from the Garda Siochana, so the field is wide open.

Tomorrow, the shortlist is drawn up and then on May 29 the interviews take place.

That date is just weeks away from the key July marching period and all the challenges and pressures that come with it. Will Matt Baggott still be here or will the new chief constable be in place by then?

We don't know the answers to those questions just yet. But we do know what is waiting for the next chief constable – taking the next steps towards a new policing environment while at the same time trying to think through many of the old problems, including how to handle the scalding hot potato that is the past.

Matt Baggott argues that dealing with the parades issue can't be narrowed down to policing and security responses. And if it is, then thousands more officers and military support will be needed. He will likely make those arguments over the coming days.

But as he prepares to depart and the process begins to replace him, what needs to be understood is that policing is about more than the police. Many of the problems they still face stem from political indecision. While officers were being battered on various police lines in the past year, politicians dithered and delayed. Some walked away from the Haass/O'Sullivan proposals, resulting in deadlock and a street mess that the police are often left to tidy up.

So, whoever is the next chief constable can be sure of one thing – they will be left with many of the old problems and poisons.

Belfast Telegraph


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