World Europe First Look

Cressida Dick becomes Scotland Yard’s first female top cop

Ms. Dick is known as an experienced and widely respected figure among colleagues, though the shooting of a Brazilian electrician in a bungled counterterrorism operation remains a stain on her record.

Cressida Dick, the new Metropolitan Police commissioner poses for photographers, outside New Scotland Yard on Victoria Embankment, in London, on Wednesday Feb. 22, 2017. Senior officer Dick was named the new commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police on Wednesday, the first woman to lead Scotland Yard in its 188-year history.
Charlotte Ball/PA/AP
|
Caption

Senior counter-terrorism officer Cressida Dick was named chief of police in London on Wednesday, making her the first woman to head a 31,000-member force in what is often considered the top police job in Britain.

Ms. Dick, a former assistant commissioner of the force who left in 2015 to join Britain's Foreign Office, led the security operation for the 2012 London Olympics, and is highly regarded by many ordinary officers. Among main longer-term challenges are likely to be budget pressures and the need to incorporate diverse communities into the work of a predominately white force, a priority for London Mayor Sadiq Khan, according to The Guardian.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who along with Mr. Khan confirmed Dick for the position, told the Associated Press she "has a clear vision for the future of the Metropolitan Police and an understanding of the diverse range of communities it serves."

But Dick’s appointment to the position may also resurface the high-stakes, ideologically fraught nature of counterterrorism work, particularly when conjoined with a force responsible for everyday metropolitan beat work.

For some Londoners, her ascent is likely to raise hackles given her leadership role at the time of a 2005 incident in which Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by police at a south London underground station, after being mistaken for a man who tried to detonate a suicide bomb in public. The police force was later found guilty of violating health and safety laws in connection with the shooting, although the jury cleared Dick herself of blame. 

The family of Mr. Menezes said in a statement issued by cousin Patricia Armani da Silva that they had “serious concerns” about the appointment, saying her actions were “at least incompetent.”

“The message of today's appointment is that police officers can act with impunity," they said, according to Reuters.

The incident came just two weeks after the July 7, 2005, bombing in London that killed 52 people and injured hundreds more, a day that Mark Rice-Oxley reporting for The Christian Science Monitor described in 2007 as “Britain’s Sept. 11”:

It has piled pressure on police and intelligence services, stretching both to the limits. Recruitment for the intelligence agencies is rising sharply, and the government has introduced tough antiterror legislation that some support, but others say sacrifices liberty on the altar of security. Heightened antiterror efforts have left many Muslims – including the overwhelming majority that decried the attacks – feeling alienated in their own country.

Dick’s stature among police colleagues was not much blemished by the incident; within two years, she was promoted to deputy assistant commissioner, directing security for the royal family. 

Her appointment means that the two highest-ranking security officials in Britain are now women, with Amber Rudd serving as Home Secretary. And it comes less than a year after the election of Khan, the city's first Muslim mayor and a first-generation son of Pakistani immigrants.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.