Ministers have defied critics and announced a two-year extension to Cressida Dick’s controversial term as commissioner of the Metropolitan police.
Dick’s five-year term was due to end in April 2022, and the prospect of her gaining two extra years had triggered a backlash from those wronged by the Met who see it as a reward for failure.
Government sources confirmed that the prospective replacements were not to the home secretary’s liking. Priti Patel hopes they will either improve, or new candidates will emerge by 2024, when Dick is scheduled to step down.
Patel took the decision to extend Dick’s term, in consultation with Downing Street and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Patel said: “Her extension will provide continuity and stability as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and recruit 20,000 additional police officers.
“Londoners know there is more to do to keep our capital safe, including by driving down violent crime, and I look forward to continuing to work with the commissioner and mayor of London to protect the public.”
Dick said: “I am immensely honoured and humbled to have been asked to extend my time as commissioner for a further two years. I am proud to continue to serve my city.
“In the last four-and-a-half years, Met teams have dealt with some extraordinary challenges, including most recently in the pandemic, and delivered some fantastic results – critically in reducing violent crimes. In addition, we have grown and modernised.
“I look forward to continuing to work with my dedicated, courageous colleagues and the public to create an even more visible, stronger and professional Met. We will strive to prevent and reduce violence and the crimes Londoners care most about, bring more criminals to justice, and protect, support and build the confidence of all our communities.”
She added: “I am acutely aware that there are many excellent leaders in policing.”
Dick became commissioner in April 2017 and was the first woman to head the Met, Britain’s biggest police force, since its founding in 1829.
One government source said the home secretary was unconvinced that Neil Basu, the former head of counter-terrorism, was the right choice to succeed Dick. Basu, who has spent all of his career in the Met, was seen as one of the frontrunners if Dick had stood down when her contract was due to end in April 2022.
Another government source said the extension was less an endorsement of Dick’s time in office and more to do with not liking the look of possible replacements.
The source said the home secretary was concerned a recruitment process this year may not feature heavyweight candidates with extensive experience outside the Met: “It’s about having as many qualified people of part of the competition. Outside experience can be useful, so can experience within the Met,” they said.
“It’s right for Cressida Dick to stay on over the next couple of years while the rest of the chief constable cadre gets up to speed to make it a proper competition.”
The extension for Dick won the backing of the Metropolitan police federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in the London force.
Its chair, Ken Marsh, declared Dick was the best choice for the job: “Whilst the federation does not always agree with the commissioner – the same goes for anyone who holds that post – we think she is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.
“We have worked with this commissioner for a number of years now and believe she is still the best candidate for the role. We know her to be an ethical, courageous and highly competent police leader who genuinely cares about London, its citizens and her officers.
“The federation fully supports the extension offered to Cressida Dick and we look forward to the next two years under her leadership.”
Dick’s tenure has been controversial, and her success in meeting her key pledge on taking office, to cut violence, is chequered.
She expanded stop and search, claiming it would drive down violent crime, triggering a fall in community confidence in the Met.
Those wronged by the Met’s disastrous investigation into a VIP paedophile ring, which was based on the word of a lying fantasist, believe Dick has escaped having to properly account for her role in Operation Midland. Prominent individuals, including the former military chief Lord Bramall, the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor and the former Conservative home secretary Leon Brittan, were falsely suspected, with their homes raided and searched.
Brittan’s widow, Lady Brittan, joined Lady Lawrence, the mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, and others to write to the prime minister this week, demanding Dick not be granted an extension, and declaring they had no confidence in her.