The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is the head of the MPS, London’s police force (also known as “the Met”). The commissioner responsible for the “direction and control” of the staff of the MPS.
Cressida Dick announced her resignation from the role of commissioner on 10 February 2022, after the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, signalled he had lost confidence in her leadership following a report from the police watchdog which found cases of misogyny, bullying and sexual harassment at a central London police station.
Dick was appointed in 2017. She first joined the Metropolitan Police in 1983 and has served in various roles, including as assistant commissioner for specialist operations and National Police Chief Council counter-terrorist lead, when she led operational security and counter terrorist operations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics.
Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, passed when Theresa May was home secretary, the commissioner is formally appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the home secretary (currently Priti Patel). In practice, this means they are appointed by the home secretary.
When making their recommendations, the home secretary must take into account any recommendations from the mayor of London. The home secretary has said that the new commissioner must tackle “policing culture and conduct”. The mayor has said that he “will not support the appointment of a new commissioner unless they can clearly demonstrate that they understand the scale of the cultural problems within the Met and the urgency with which they must be addressed.”
Only those who have served as a police officer somewhere in the UK can be appointed as commissioner.
The commissioner is accountable to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which is headed by the mayor of London and run by the by deputy mayor for policing and crime (currently Sophie Linden). The deputy mayor holds the commissioner accountable for the actions of people under the commissioner’s control, the effectiveness of policing and the management of the Metropolitan Police’s budget.
The commissioner also reports to the home secretary for those matters where the Metropolitan Police has a national responsibility.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 abolished the Metropolitan Police Authority, the previous body responsible for overseeing the Commissioner and the Metropolitan Police.
The mayor of London may suspend the commissioner, with the approval of the home secretary.
The mayor may also call upon the commissioner to resign, again with the approval of the home secretary. Before doing so, the mayor must give the commissioner a written explanation of why they want the commissioner to resign. They must give the commissioner the opportunity to respond to this explanation, and take into account the response.
In February 2022, Cressida Dick chose to resign before this process began formally, after Khan had signalled he had lost confidence in her leadership.
The Metropolitan Police faced repeated calls to investigate allegations of breaches of the Covid restrictions at Downing Street but only decided to do so after senior civil servant Sue Gray had almost completed her investigation. The commissioner confirmed that the police were investigating the allegations and the police later confirmed that they had asked Gray to make only “minimal references” to the events they were looking into in her report, which led her to publish an update saying “it is not possible at present to provide a meaningful report.”
The police, and the commissioner as its head, have been criticised for their delay in investigating, their contradictory statements about whether their involvement would affect what Gray could publish, and the fact that their investigation will now delay the full publication of her findings.
Dick also attracted criticism for past decisions, including:
- the policing response to the vigil for Sarah Everard
- the response to the murder of Daniel Morgan, which saw the Metropolitan Police branded “institutionally corrupt” by an independent panel
- the policing of the Euro 2020 games at Wembley
- her oversight of the counter-terror operation when the innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by the police.
- Morton B, Cressida Dick: New Met chief must tackle policing culture, says Priti Patel, BBC News, 11 February 2022, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-60345334
- Metropolitan Police, ‘Strong is… being the next first’, www.met.police.uk/police-forces/metropolitan-police/areas/campaigns/2018/celebrating-100-years-of-women-policing-in-london/100-years-strong/cressida-dick
- Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
- BBC News, Sadiq Khan: New Met boss must have robust plan on culture problems, 13 February 2022, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-60365947
- Mayor of London, ‘About the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC)’, www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac/about-mayors-office-policing-and-crime-mopac
- Metropolitan Police, ‘Governance’, www.met.police.uk/police-forces/metropolitan-police/areas/about-us/about-the-met/governance
- BBC News, “Dame Cressida Dick: Crises and controversies of Met chief”, 1 October 2021, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-58514848