The Home Office announced an inquiry on Monday into the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick as head of London’s Metropolitan Police, as her deputy was confirmed as the force’s interim commissioner.
Sir Stephen House, one of Dick’s most ardent supporters, will lead the Met when Dick departs in April. House, deputy commissioner since 2018, has claimed she was removed without “due process”.
Dick’s departure from the Met came after London mayor Sadiq Khan effectively expressed no confidence in her continuing in the role. A review into her exit will be led by the outgoing HM chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor.
Priti Patel, home secretary, praised Dick on Monday for leading the Met “during extremely tough times”, including through terror attacks and the coronavirus pandemic, while helping to reduce serious violence in London.
Patel said House would provide “stability and continuity” while a full time replacement was selected and the review takes place into Dick’s exit. Her successor is expected to be appointed this summer.
“It is right that we have appropriate legislation in place to govern the modern policing environment and I believe the circumstances leading up to Dame Cressida’s departure warrant further scrutiny, which is why I have commissioned Sir Tom Winsor to conduct this review,” she said.
The Home Office said that Winsor’s review, which begins on April 1, would establish the facts and circumstances surrounding Dick’s decision to step aside, whether due process was followed and any recommendations on how accountability may be strengthened.
But London City Hall insiders hit back at the inquiry, describing it as “politically motivated” and said the Home Office was “wasting officials’ time and taxpayers’ money”. One person close to Khan said Patel should “show leadership and focus on the job of sorting out the huge issues facing the Met and police forces across the country”.
People close to Khan also noted that Lord Ian Blair was forced to step down as Met commissioner by Boris Johnson in 2008 after the then mayor of London lost confidence in him.
Home Office insiders said Winsor’s review would help create robust processes if any mayor or police and crime commissioner wished to remove their chief constable. “The process around Cressida’s departure was all over the shop. The whole thing was a mess and it was not good for public confidence in policing,” the official said.
Khan’s spokesperson noted that trust in the Met “is at the lowest level on record” following the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer last year and the widespread evidence of sexism, racism and discrimination at Charing Charing police station.
“This was some of the backdrop against which the mayor lost confidence in the ability of the Met commissioner to lead the deep-rooted cultural change the Met needs and win back the trust and confidence of Londoners needed to effectively police by consent.”
The person added: “The mayor is clear that the Met’s next leader must demonstrate they understand the depths of the problems faced by the force and have a plan to restore the trust and confidence of Londoners.”
Dick’s exact departure date has yet to be confirmed, but one senior Whitehall official suggested it would be “mid April”. She is expected to oversee the conclusion of the force’s investigation into the so-called “partygate” scandal into Whitehall gatherings that broke Covid rules.