Dame Cressida Dick – first female commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

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Dame Cressida Dick has had her contract extended as the head of the UK’s largest police force after days of speculation.

The first female commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will continue in her role until 2024 after the extension was approved by the Queen, Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Friday.

Dame Cressida holds the title of the UK’s most senior police officer and has served more than 30 years in uniform.

Originally from Oxford, Dame Cressida was educated at the city’s university, graduating from Balliol College.

Priti Patel visits Counter-Terrorism Operations Centre
Home Secretary Priti Patel confirmed Dame Cressida would continue her role for a further two years. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

She joined the Met in 1983, where she served as a constable, sergeant and inspector in central south-west and south-east London.

In 1995 she transferred to Thames Valley Police as superintendent operations at Oxford, and subsequently spent three years as area commander.

She took a career break to study for a Master’s degree in criminology at Cambridge University, before returning to the Met in June 2001.

Dame Cressida, who was the UK police lead for hostage negotiation, was appointed director of the force’s diversity directorate and head of the racial and violent crime taskforce before moving to the specialist crime directorate in 2003.

During her second stint at the Met she took on command roles in the police response to the 9/11 attacks and the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

She was thrust into the public eye in 2005 after she was in charge of the operation that led to the fatal shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, who was wrongly identified as a potential suicide bomber.

A jury later cleared Dame Cressida of any blame in his death.

Dame Cressida file image
Dame Cressida speaking to the media during a walkabout in Croydon town centre. (Luciana Guerra/PA)

In February 2007 she was promoted to deputy assistant commissioner and was later made the Met’s first female assistant commissioner in 2009.

She was the national lead for counter-terrorism for three years, and also led the security operations for the Queen’s diamond jubilee and 2012 Olympics.

Her work also included leading the re-investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the police response to the killing of Lee Rigby.

Dame Cressida then left Scotland Yard in January 2015 to become a director-general at the Foreign Office before returning as commissioner in 2017.

She was made a dame in Theresa May’s resignation honours in 2019.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs the same year, she said her image was “a bit different” and had encouraged young people from different backgrounds to consider applying to the force.

Dame Cressida is gay but has said her sexuality is “one of the least interesting things” about her, adding: “I happen to love Helen, she’s my partner, on we go.”

Thought to be well-liked among the rank and file, Dame Cressida has shared how her colleagues are very amused that she cannot detect the smell of cannabis.

She stepped into the role of commissioner in the aftermath of the Westminster terror attack, in which Pc Keith Palmer was stabbed to death as he carried out his duties on March 22, 2017.

During her term the Met has continued to face criticism over the relationship between police and black Londoners.

Dame Cressida has denied the force is institutionally racist but has admitted her force “is not free of discrimination, racism or bias”, but has a zero-tolerance policy.

The force faced controversy and accusations of alleged racial profiling following a series of high-profile incidents filmed and shared online.

Dame Cressida has repeatedly defended the use of stop and search powers to take hundreds of weapons a month off London’s streets.

Dame Cressida Dick
Ms Dick was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Prince of Wales in July. (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

She has also had to deal with the fall out from the disastrous Operation Midland, a multimillion-pound investigation which saw detectives duped by false claims of a VIP sex abuse ring made by fantasist Carl Beech.

Dame Cressida had been responsible for supervising the senior investigating officer who said allegations made by Beech, which were subsequently shown to be false, were “credible and true”.

In October 2019, she made a public apology for mistakes in the police investigations.

Two months later, Dame Cressida was referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) but was later cleared.

In March, public confidence was shaken when one of the force’s armed officers Wayne Couzens murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard, days after he had indecently exposed himself in a fast food restaurant.

The Met was heavily criticised for its handling of a vigil held in Miss Everard’s memory and to raise awareness of the dangers faced by women on the streets.

The force is defending a judicial review over Miss Everard case.

Over the summer, officers were hit with criticism over the security of Wembley stadium during the final of the Euro 2020 championships, which saw thousands of ticketless fans storm the venue.

Dame Cressida later defended their actions, stating she “did not accept” that the policing operation failed, adding: “Without (the officers’) immediate intervention, it is possible that this game could have been abandoned.”

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