History has been made and I wonder what Sir Robert Peel would make of his Police Force 188 years on from its inception? I hope he would approve and realise as many do in Policing, that Cressida Dick was the best candidate for the important role of Commissioner of the Met and its associated title of `Britains` Top Cop`. The Metropolitan Police will therefore have the first ever female Commissioner in its history but is it such a big factor that a woman has been selected? Frequently criticised for lacking diversity in recent years, the Met will now be led by a female officer and when you consider what that means in terms of advancement, maybe it is a big thing.
I joined in 1979 and although at that stage women were allegedly integrated into policing, they were still treated slightly differently. I can remember experienced Constables refusing to have a woman as the radio operator on the emergency cars and this attitude continued until well into the 1980`s. I qualified as an advanced driver in 1985 and can remember being asked if I was `ok` to have a female partner for my one month posting on the emergency/pursuit car. Personally, I found my female colleagues highly competent and capable and never had a problem working alongside them. On many occasions, I found it a positive advantage to be accompanied by a female officer when dealing with domestic incidents and allegations of assaults. They could calm down a potentially confrontational situation when two male officers may have had a totally different reception and outcome. To think there would be a female Commissioner within 30 years would have been unthinkable in the 1980`s given the male dominated and misogynistic view of the Police hierarchy. This would have been a tough path for any woman to tread in that policing era and the successful ones really had to prove themselves above and beyond many of their male colleagues.
Cressida Dick joined the Metropolitan Police in 1983 and would have experienced some elements of this male dominance in policing roles but her natural ability and enthusiasm for the job has clearly served her well. I never worked directly for her, but I have been present at several intelligence meetings and Police operations which she has been involved in and found her to be highly impressive. We even shared the occasional bus ride to New Scotland Yard from the train station and she always had time for a quick chat and cheery smile. Clearly someone in love with the job and her role and she was already noticeably different from some of her senior management colleagues. I have spoken to many serving and former officers over the last few months since Sir Bernard announced he was prematurely retiring. The consensus was almost overwhelming that Cress was by far the best candidate for the job but by this stage she had left the Met for a role at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. It was unknown at first if she would throw her hat in the ring, especially after it appeared she left the Police when she was moved from her much-loved role as head of Counter terrorism. That decision was made under the leadership of the Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and it was never really explained or justified. Once it was announced that she had applied for the job, almost everyone I spoke to believed she was absolutely the best person for the job.
She had started the hard way by spending her first ten years learning the basics of operational policing before applying for the Met accelerated promotion scheme. Who needs a Direct entry scheme? A sound operational policing basis and then accelerated through the ranks based on her ability and aptitude, what is wrong with that as a policy?
I think she will be exactly what the Met needs right now as they are at an all-time low in respect of morale and will face significant challenges in the next few years. Further budget cuts, reduction in the property estate and issues with retaining staff and attracting specialist officers will all need to be addressed. That is notwithstanding the crime issues they face from increasing knife incidents and the threat of terrorism. The tenure of the outgoing Commissioner has been riddled with rumours of a bullish management style and dogmatic approach to junior ranks. Cressida Dick does not lead in anything like the same style judging by everything I have heard and know about her. She has been described as the type of boss that you are willing to go the extra mile for and her staff put in that bit more when asked to do so. She will also give confidence to many of the young women now joining the Met that there are opportunities available to them if they have the ability and desire to succeed.
She has a sound policing background founded on time well spent at the front line and a calm head coupled with a documented support for those working for her. Her testimony at the inquest into the tragic shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes gained her increased credibility within policing and government circles. She withstood the pressure and gave an honest account of one of the most challenging operations and the decisions that have ever been made by a Police Commander. Whatever your views on that policing operation, Cressida put herself in that difficult leadership position and her decision making on the day has been vindicated at a trial.
I wish her well and hope she has a long and successful tenure at the head of the Met and restores the morale and belief in the men and women that serve the capital.