Downing Street has come out in strong support of the embattled polizia metropolitana commissioner, Cressida Dick, after a backlash to the government’s decision to extend her time in office.
The formal announcement to extend her five-year term as Britain’s top police officer by two years, per 2024, is expected in days, multiple sources have told the Guardian.
The news of the extension leaked on Wednesday. It led to several people who have suffered at the hands of the Met, and won apologies, to demand that her term of office ends on its planned date of April 2022.
The Daily Mail reported that the group had written to Boris Johnson, declaring no confidence in the first woman to head the Met since its founding in 1829.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “On the concerns raised, the prime minister is very clear that he wants to see those serious concerns looked at very carefully, and the government expects the whole of the Met leadership team to respond positively and openly to those criticisms.”
Some of the most searing criticisms came in the recent official report into the Daniel Morgan murder, which accused Dick of being obstructive and the Met of being institutionally corrupt. Dick led the Met’s vehement denials of the panel’s findings. Morgan’s brother, Alastair, was part of the group featured in the Mail.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “There are various bits of work being done on this, including for example the home secretary’s commission of the Inspectorate [of Constabulary] to look at the issues raised by the Daniel Morgan report. There is regular contact with the Met to ensure progress, and contact with the families should be an important part of this, to ensure we learn from the past mistakes.”
Asked whether the group’s concerns had a bearing on the decision about whether to extend Dick’s tenure, Egli ha detto: “Of course, concerns raised by anyone about the performance of the Met police should be taken into account when considering the leadership of the Met police.”
The Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister believed Dick was a “formidable police officer” and that she “retains his full support” as Met commissioner.
The PM’s defiance comes despite the letter to him from the group, which accused Dick of presiding “over a culture of incompetence and cover-up”.
Sources said the appointment, which is by royal warrant and thus needs formal approval by the Queen, was still with Buckingham Palace.
The decision was made by the home secretary, Priti Patel, in consultation with the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and Downing Street.
“Who else is there?” said one government source, aggiungendo: “She remains the best person for the job.”
The government hopes the two-year extension will give time for another candidate to emerge, or for those already considered to boost their credentials.
It is understood the government was not sufficiently impressed with possible candidates such as Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and the assistant commissioner Neil Basu, until recently head of counter-terrorism, who would be the first minority-ethnic commissioner. Both are well regarded among their fellow chief officers.
Dick’s tenure has been controversial. She expanded stop and search, claiming it would drive down violent crime, leading to a fall in community confidence in the Met and scrutiny of the force’s chequered history on race.
Some believe she has escaped having to properly account for her role in Operation Midland, the disastrous Met investigation into a nonexistent VIP paedophile ring in which prominent individuals, including Leon Brittan, were falsely suspected.