(CN) — The commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, was forced to resign on Thursday after an intervention from Mayor Sadiq Khan, who claimed the public had lost trust in the United Kingdom’s most powerful police force.
“Last week, I made clear to [Dick] the scale of the change I believe is urgently required to rebuild the trust and confidence of Londoners in the Met, and to root out the racism, sexism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination and misogyny that still exists," Kahn said in a statement Thursday. "I am not satisfied with the commissioner’s response.”
Earlier in the week, the mayor had told the BBC’s Radio 4: “We police in this country on a very important principle – one of consent. If it is the case, whether you’re a woman or a girl, whether you’re a person of color, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that you haven’t got confidence in the police service to be able to come forward when you are a victim of crime, a witness of crime, then that’s a problem for now.”
Just hours prior to her resignation, Dick had told BBC that she had no intention of stepping down, saying, “I have been leading the Met very well.”
“I think about my leadership all the time. I am not an arrogant person, I do adapt, I do change. I have absolutely done my very, very, very best and I will continue to do so until the day I finish as commissioner,” she added.
When she was appointed to the post in 2017, Dick became the first female commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, colloquially known as the Met, in its nearly 200-year history. However, under her leadership the Met has become embroiled in a series of high-profile scandals highlighting an alleged culture of sexism and misogyny in the force.
The allegations gained national prominence following last year’s shocking abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard by a Met police officer.
Officer Wayne Couzens kidnapped Everard under the pretense of arresting her for breaching coronavirus regulations while she was walking home on the evening of March 3, 2021. He used his police warrant card as a means of abducting Everard, and is believed to have strangled her to death using his police belt. Couzens was later sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the most serious punishment under English law.
The case sparked widespread anger and fear among women in the U.K., particularly as it emerged that police had been aware of previous incidents of sexual assault committed by Couzens, including two just prior to Everard’s murder, and that he had been been nicknamed “The Rapist” by colleagues.
Public criticism of the Met intensified after a vigil held in Everard’s memory at London’s Clapham Common, just 10 days after the murder, was controversially broken up by police officers enforcing pandemic restrictions on public gatherings. Met officers were accused of assaulting women attending the vigil and trampling on flowers left in Everard’s memory. A subsequent report found that policing of the vigil was appropriate, but also a “public relations disaster” with a “materially adverse effect on public confidence in policing.”
In addition, the Met was widely criticized for public advice issued to women frightened by the circumstances in which Everard was kidnapped. Women were told they should consider resisting arrest, running away or waving a bus down if they were suspicious of a police officer’s motives. A spokesperson for the domestic violence group Sisters Uncut said the advice showed that Dick "does not trust her officers to not abuse their powers.”