Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says she will not resign - her response to criticism

Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has dismissed calls to resign following criticism over the force’s handling of a vigil for Sarah Everard

Britain’s most senior police chief defended the police’s actions after footage showed officers detaining women at Clapham Common in London on Saturday (13 March).

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Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to Ms Everard who went missing while walking home from a friend’s on 3 March.

Dick will join Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a meeting of the crime and justice taskforce on Monday (15 March) to discuss ways to protect women.

So who is Dame Cressida Dick, why are there calls for her to resign - and how has she responded to the criticism?

Here is everything you need to know.

Who is Dame Cressida Dick?

Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, became the first woman to lead Scotland Yard when she was appointed in 2017.

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Her position makes her the highest-ranking police officer in the UK.

Born in Oxford to two academics, Dick joined the Met in 1983 as a constable and rapidly rose through the ranks.

She became a tutor on the accelerated promotion course at Bramshill Police College in 1993, before transferring to Thames Valley Police as a superintendent in 1995.

Dick then took on the role as area commander in Oxford for three years.

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She was awarded a Master of Philosophy in Criminology from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, in 2001, and then returned to the Met as a commander.

Before she took on the role of Met Commissioner, Dick became well known for being the gold commander in the control room during the operation which led to the death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.

In the aftermath of the 21 July 2005 London bombings, Mr de Menezes had been wrongly identified as a potential suicide bomber and was repeatedly shot at Stockwell tube station in south London.

When the force was later found guilty of breaching health and safety laws, Dick was acquitted and exonerated of personal blame by an inquest jury.

She was appointed Acting Deputy Commissioner in 2012.

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Dick was then named the successor to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe as Commissioner of the Met Police Service in February 2017.

Her partner, Helen, also worked for the Met Police as a response team inspector before retiring in 2017.

Why have there been calls for her to resign?

Following Sarah Everard’s vigil, Dick was publicly rebuked by Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan for giving an unsatisfactory explanation for the Met’s actions on the night.

Mr Khan criticised the commissioner and said he was “not satisfied” with her account of why police clashed with women who attended the Clapham Common vigil.

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And Ms Patel has called for an independent investigation into the force’s decisions.

Writing on Twitter, the home secretary said: "Some of the footage circulating online from the vigil in Clapham is upsetting.

"I have asked the Metropolitan Police for a full report on what happened.

"My thoughts remain with Sarah’s family and friends at this terrible time."

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But sources said both Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had confidence in Dick.

On Sunday 14 March, Mr Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by the scenes at the vigil, and added that Dick had “committed to reviewing how this was handled”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also criticised the police response, branding it “deeply disturbing”, while Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey called for the Met Police Commissioner to “consider” her position.

Mr Davey condemned the scenes as "a complete abject tactical and moral failure on the part of the police".

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One of the organisers of the vigil, Anna Birley from group Reclaim These Streets, has said Dick should not resign.

Birley told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We are a movement of women seeking to support and empower other women, and as one of the most senior women in British policing history, we do not want to add to the pile-on.”

Yet she said she did want the commissioner to meet with the group as they were “hugely disappointed” that she put out a statement “without talking to any of the people who were organising the vigil and had such a difficult experience with the Metropolitan police force”.

How has she responded?

Despite mounting pressure, Dick has refused to step down as Met Police Commissioner.

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Asked whether she was considering her position on Sunday 14 March, she replied: “No, I’m not.”

She insisted that what happened to Sarah Everard, whose body was found in woodland in Kent last week, had made her “more determined, not less, to lead my organisation”, and that she was focused on “our streets being safer than they are now”.

Dick said that concerns about the spread of Covid-19 had led police officers to break up the vigil.

She added that, as a woman, she would have attended the vigil if it had been lawful.

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The commissioner said she agreed on the need for a “sober review” into the events, but defended how officers responded to the “really big crowd”.

"Quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt that this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people's health," she said.

"I don't think anybody who was not in the operation can actually pass a detailed comment on the rightness and wrongness... This is fiendishly difficult policing."

Speaking about the decisions police officers are faced with, Dick added: “They have to make these really difficult calls and I don’t think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying, ‘Well, that was done badly’ or ‘I would’ve done it differently’ without actually understanding what was going through their minds.”