The rift between the Metropolitan Police and Sadiq Khan deepened today as deputy commissioner Stephen House accused the Mayor of failing to follow “due process” over the recent resignation of commissioner Cressida Dick.
Appearing before the London Assembly police and crime committee, House (pictured) revealed that the Met had asked Home Secretary Priti Patel to investigate the events culminating in Dick’s decision to step down.
Dick’s response to a report detailing discrimination, misogyny, harassment and bullying by officers at Charing Cross police station was reported to have persuaded Khan to withdraw confidence in her.
But those concerns had been under independent investigation for four years – prompted after a serving office had blown the whistle – and City Hall had been fully briefed on them, House said. “They couldn’t have been a surprise to the Mayor.”
Although Khan’s deputy for policing Sophie Linden told the meeting that Dick’s proposals to tackle what she described as the “shattering of trust and confidence” in the Met since 2017 had not satisfied the Mayor, House said City Hall’s concerns had not been explained to his boss.
“It would be good for the new commissioner to get feedback on the plan that was put in, because the existing commissioner got none despite asking,” he said. “It’s difficult to improve it if you don’t know what critics think needs improving.”
In exchanges which underlined the difficulties posed for City Hall’s reform agenda, House also challenged Linden’s assertion that Dick’s proposals had not shown “sufficient acceptance of the nature and severity” of the problems facing the Met.
“We fully accept the grave impact of recent events. It is not true that the commissioner did not understand,” he said. Dick had shown a “steely determination” to tackle concerns. Her departure had “deprived London of the outstanding police officer of her generation”.
Suggestions that all those implicated in the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s investigation of Charing Cross officers should be dismissed were also wide of the mark, House said.
While two had been sacked and three others had resigned, most had been cleared or had not committed breaches meriting dismissal. “Just because you are part of an investigation doesn’t mean you’re guilty,” he said. “Calls to sack officers where an independent investigation has found no case to answer would be a breach of natural justice.”
But Linden told the committee the IOPC report had revealed that “something serious was going on in terms of the culture of the Met – not bad apples or historic events but systemic issues. It was clear to the Mayor that urgent action needed to be taken.”
The next Met chief would “need to make it much clearer to Londoners that they accept the severity and depth of the problem and put in place a robust plan to engage with Londoners,” she said. “The question for me is how that communication and engagement happens. Is it ‘let us tell you what we are doing’, or is it ‘let’s have this discussion, let us understand your lived experience as Londoners of the Met, let us listen and learn and change?’ That’s what we want to see going forward.”
Green Party Assembly member Caroline Russell suggested to House that Londoners were hearing a measure of defensiveness from the Met. “I’m not saying everything is fine,” House replied. “It’s clearly not. We have major problem. I’ve never said it is just a few bad apples. But I believe most Met officers are right-thinking decent people. I would have to say if you feel you’re under attack, you get defensive. We need less of the binary and more of the ‘this is a problem for us all to fix’.”
The session was a demonstration of “just how far the Met needs to go to rebuild trust and confidence with Londoners, to show that bullying is over in the Met and to rid themselves of their defensive attitude,” Russell commented after the meeting.
A spokesperson for the Mayor said Dick’s decision to resign “after the Mayor had lost confidence” had removed the need to follow the statutory process, adding that Londoners’ trust in the police was at nearly an “all-time low” after recent “devastating scandals”.
“The mayor is now working with the Home Secretary on the process to appoint a new commissioner, who understands the scale of the problem and who will take the necessary action to restore trust in the service,” the spokesperson said.
The police and crime committee meeting can be viewed in full here.
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