The Metropolitan Police (Met) is looking for a new chief after Cressida Dick resigned from her post as Commissioner on February 10. The Met is responsible for the prevention of crime and law enforcement in Greater London as well as for some specialized matters throughout the U.K. such as counterterrorism measures and personal safety of specific individuals such as the Queen and members of government.
Public confidence in the Met has fallen in recent years due to its handling of historic child abuse claims, as well as allegations of racisim, sexism and homophobia. This was further impacted by the murder of Sarah Everard by Met police officer Wayne Couzens and the subsequent handling of protests regarding women’s safety. In addition, a recent report revealed that officers found to be exchanging racist, misogynist and homophobic messages were still serving and some had even been promoted.
The final straw was perhaps the Met’s investigation into the U.K. government’s “lockdown parties” that it is alleged to have held while the country was under strict pandemic measures. This investigation is ongoing but the Met had stepped in and restricted the content of a public report into the allegations, claiming it would affect their own inquiries.
Shortly after the Met called for this report to be modified, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan voiced his anger at the series of scandals and said he no longer had confidence in the Commissioner to turn the force around.
In her resignation statement, Dick wrote that “the Mayor no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership to continue. He has left me no choice but to step aside as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.”
Acknowledging the lack of public confidence, the Commissioner said there is still much to do.
“The murder of Sarah Everard and many other awful cases recently have, I know, damaged confidence in this fantastic police service. There is much to do – and I know that the Met has turned its full attention to rebuilding public trust and confidence. For that reason I am very optimistic about the future for the Met and for London.”
Dick will remain at the Met for a short period while arrangements are made for a transition to a new Commissioner.
Who might replace her?
Former Metropolitan Police head of Counterterrorism and Assistant Commissioner and head of U.K. Counter Terrorism Policing Neil Basu has been mentioned more than once. In fact, Basu was tipped for the Met’s top role before losing out to Cressida Dick in 2017. However, he has been criticized for becoming too involved in politics and is not thought to be a favorite of Prime Minister Johnson after Basu suggested the PM’s comments were racially offensive. Perhaps personal differences could be put aside however in light of his excellent credentials and his long service to the Met since he joined as a beat officer in 1992.
The Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police would be a natural contender for the job. Sir Stephen House has worked in several different forces and was appointed chief constable of Police Scotland in 2012. However, he faced criticism at Police Scotland and resigned over a delayed response to an incident in which two people had died.
Chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Martin Hewitt, is another possibility. Hewitt began his policing career with Kent Police in 1993 and transferred to the Metropolitan Police Service in 2005. He was an Assistant Commissioner for five years. Like Basu, he has been criticized for becoming too political and has angered some sectors of the public for his tough stance on COVID-19 offenders.
Northern Ireland’s Chief Constable Simon Byrne’s name has also been mentioned as a potential replacement for Commissioner Dick. He has also held senior roles at the Met, Greater Manchester Police and Cheshire Police. The latter ended in controversy however and he was subject to a misconduct hearing for bullying. He was cleared of all wrongdoing but has also spoken frequently on politics which may put him at a disadvantage.
As it might for former head of Merseyside Police, Andy Cooke, who has spoken openly on poverty in the U.K. and its connection to crime. Cooke was appointed as HM Inspector of Constabulary and HM Inspector of Fire & Rescue Services in April 2021.
Matt Jukes, currently Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Met after Basu left the post in September 2021, could be a less controversial choice. Jukes is recognized as being a proactive police leader, having started as a police constable and worked his way up the ranks until his appointment as chief constable of South Wales Police. He moved from South Wales Police to take up his role at the Met in 2020.
Sir Dave Thompson, Vice Chairman of the NPCC, worked at Greater Manchester Police for 20 years before joining West Midlands Police in 2010 as deputy chief constable in 2010.
He was promoted to Chief Constable in 2016. Sir Dave is a well-decorated police leader who received a knighthood in 2021 for his services to policing.
Given the recent criticism of the Met’s handling of female victims, another woman at the helm could also be a good move. And not simply because they are women. Helen Ball is the current Assistant Commissioner for the Met. She joined the force in 1987 but left in 2010 to join Thames Valley Police as assistant chief constable. Ball then returned to focus on counterterrorism policing and now has an advisory role at the College of Policing.
Lucy D’Orsi, currently Chief Constable of the British Transport Police would also bring a safe pair of hands and strong leadership qualities to the Commissioner’s office. Previously a senior officer at the Met, rising to Deputy Assistant Commissioner.
Numerous other names have also been suggested, and of course the government could also pull a surprise and bring in someone who would not be instantly obvious for the role. Doing so would have its benefits as well as potential challenges.
The government has said it will appoint a strong and decisive leader. It has plenty of options, especially if it can look past differing politics. Care must also be given to any disruption that could be caused by moving a senior leader from their current position. The Home Secretary will have the final say on who will be the next head of the Met, however she will need the London Mayor’s approval. The Queen will then officially appoint the Commissioner.