Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick should have stepped down 11 months ago, a women’s safety campaigner has said.
Dame Cressida confirmed on Thursday she would resign following a meeting with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan after a string of scandals over police misconduct, including the exposure of sexist and homophobic comments shared among officers at Charing Cross.
Jamie Klingler, co-founder of campaign group Reclaim These Streets, which is bringing a legal challenge against the Met over its handling of a Sarah Everard vigil, said she had long been wanting Dame Cressida’s resignation.
Ms Klingler told the PA news agency: “We think it’s come 11 months too late, and her language and her lack of accountability around the systemic issues meant that reform and change wasn’t possible under her leadership.”
She added: “She continually put the reputation of the Met before my safety.
“The hunger to serve the public needs to be more important that protecting against reputational damage. Reputation can’t be more important than our safety and lives.”
Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) Andrea Simon said: “It is imperative that the incoming commissioner shows strong leadership and accountability in addressing the Met’s abysmal record in responding to violence against women and girls.”
She added: “The Met has a serious problem with institutional racism and misogyny and we must now see commitment to the difficult but meaningful internal work to transform its culture.”
Miss Everard was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens in March 2021.
The brother of Stephen Lawrence, who was killed in a racially motivated attack in 1993, said the resignation was “needed” and it has set the police “on a pathway now of seeing real change”.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Stuart Lawrence said: “I have met her a good couple of times and those meetings always have been productive, she has always come across to me personally as someone who wants to implement change and wants to see things done differently. But she just hasn’t been able to really put that down to the rest of the forces and the people who are responsible for the different teams throughout the Metropolitan Police force.
“It’s a big service, there’s lots of different members and lots of different moving parts and it’s a big job and we really need someone that’s going to be put in post now that’s going really to be able to stamp a real clean step of a new direction to go in.”
Matthew Ryder QC, who represented the Stephen Lawrence’s family, said Dame Cressida was “wrong and strong” in her leadership, echoing a Jamaican expression which means “not only are you wrong, but you’re belligerent and stubborn in being wrong”.
“The problem with Cressida Dick’s leadership over anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-corruption, she was wrong and strong, and you can’t have a police commissioner who is wrong and strong on those critical issues about the values Londoners hold dear,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
John Pape, a friend of Stephen Port murder victim Gabriel Kovari, said he was “gratified” Dame Cressida was stepping down.
A coroner’s report concluded there had been “basic investigative failings” by police during their investigations into the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Mr Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor who were killed by Port in 2014 and 2015.
Writing on Twitter on Friday, Mr Pape said: “I was sat behind #Cressida at the London Assembly when she said the MET is ‘a caring organisation’. Laughable given the context was her being questioned about the Port case. I’m gratified Sadiq took decisive action.”
However, former police watchdog Zoe Billingham said a series of scandals had “sadly” led to the resignation and “taking the scalp of woman” will not necessarily solve cultural problems in the force.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, Ms Billingham, who was Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue for 12 years, said: “Charing Cross was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“The comments of those officers was an abomination but the way the Met then handled that, with nine officers still serving and two having been promoted, I think was probably the last breach of trust the mayor could take and that led to, sadly in my view, a change.
She added: “I don’t believe that taking the scalp of woman is necessarily going to be the way to address the cultural issues in the Met.”
Former Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has said the force should be “casting the net as wide as possible” in the search for a new commissioner.
Dame Cressida is due to leave once a replacement has been found.
Sir Paul, who led the force from 2009 to 2011, told LBC: “We should be casting the net as wide as possible to find the best possible person and I would not constrict that, not in any way shape or form.”
He added that included anyone who was eligible to apply, even from outside policing.
Patsy Stevenson, who was arrested at a vigil for Ms Everard and is taking legal action against the Met, told PA: “The main thing for me is just hoping that people remain vigilant and aware that this doesn’t fix anything. But obviously I’m very happy that she has resigned.”
Asked what the next commissioner, and the Met as a whole, needed to do to change and improve, she said: “They need to be transparent … not hiding things, not ignoring things.”
Campaign group Sisters Uncut suggested the Met “cannot be reformed” and warned that any change in leadership would be “ultimately symbolic” unless there was “meaningful change” to tackle what it claimed were institutional problems within the force.
London’s Victims’ Commissioner Claire Waxman said it was “critical that the next chapter of the Metropolitan Police truly puts victims at the heart of its mission”.
She added: “This will mean engaging directly and compassionately with victims and being willing to hear some tough truths about the realities on the ground. It will mean seeing victim testimony as a valuable resource for improvement, rather than unfair criticism.
“And it will require robust, tangible, and transparent plans about how the systemic, cultural issues will be urgently addressed.”