Cressida Dick’s tenure as the Metropolitan police commissioner will end next month, the government has said, with continued wrangling over a payoff and an inquiry announced into why she decided to resign.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, announced Dick’s five years as Britain’s top police officer would end in April, with the process to find a replacement to pull the Met out of crisis expected to start imminently.
Her deputy, Sir Stephen House, will be acting commissioner because there will be a gap of months between Dick’s departure and a new commissioner being able to take up the role in the summer or beyond.
House is one of Dick’s staunchest defenders and the experienced senior officer is a former head of Police Scotland – the United Kingdom’s second biggest force – which he left in controversial circumstances.
He is likely to be acting commissioner as the Met reaches decisions over its Partygate criminal inquiry into alleged lockdown breaches in Downing Street .
Dick’s original five-year term finishes in April, and last September she was granted a two-year extension by the home secretary with the agreement of the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, whom the government has to consult.
She resigned last month, unable to convince Khan she could reform the Met and unwilling to attend a meeting to discuss with the mayor why he thought her plans were inadequate.
The public reason for the falling out was Khan’s view that Dick mishandled a scandal involving sickening hate messages being swapped between officers at Charing Cross police station. Nine were left in the Met and two were promoted.
Dick was the first female commissioner of the Met, and during her five years in charge controversy and crisis plagued the force to such an extent Patel feared the London force’s troubles were blighting the reputation of policing nationally.
As the standoff last month between Dick and Khan intensified, with the mayor using media interviews to make clear his displeasure, the government chose not to step in to save the Met commissioner it had reappointed.
Patel said: “Dame Cressida Dick was at the helm of the Met during extremely tough times, with terror attacks and the pandemic among the challenges she faced. Her dedication to protecting London and Londoners has helped drive down serious violence in the city and for that in particular she deserves our gratitude.
“Sir Steve House, her current deputy, will provide the stability and continuity the force needs as we focus on appointing the right person to lead the country’s largest force and make London an even safer place to live, work and visit.”
Dick is understood to believe she should receive a payoff, having been granted a two-year extension that would have been worth £480,000. City Hall believes that does not apply because she chose to resign.
The review into the circumstances of Dick’s resignation was demanded by House. Aides to Patel hope it will reassure any candidates for Met commissioner that they can not be casually discarded, while accepting Khan as police and crime commissioner for London has the right to get rid of a commissioner who does not command his confidence.
The review by Sir Tom Winsor, who finished this week as chief inspector of constabulary, will focus only on Dick’s ousting from the Met.
In October Winsor defended and praised Dick after calls for her to quit over the scandal of serving Met officer Wayne Couzens kidnapping and murdering Sarah Everard. Winsor said: “She’s one of the most talented and far-sighted police leaders the police has had in living memory.”
Dick and her lawyers have been negotiating her departure. City Hall dropped an initial demand she sign a gag clause but relations between the two sides are fraught.
Her supporters thought that she had the mayor’s backing and one government source criticised Khan’s handling of the Met, in whom public confidence has fallen to an all time low: “They don’t seem to realise they run the Met.”
A spokesperson for the London mayor said the circumstances of Dick’s departure mirrored those in 2008 when the then Met commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, was ousted by the then London mayor, Boris Johnson: “The mayor is now working with the home secretary to appoint a new Commissioner who understands the depths of the problems faced by the force and has a plan to restore the trust and confidence of Londoners.”
Patel as home secretary will chose the next Met commissioner and by law, has to have due regard for the views of the London mayor.