'She inspires confidence': Cressida Dick, the Met's first female commissioner

Dick returns to policing after time at the Foreign Office, bringing weight of her experience in counter-terrorism and operations

Cressida Dick’s 31-year-long police career shows she has the ability to impress those around her, as she did with the home secretary and London mayor to win the job of Met commissioner.

She has run the most complex operations tackling kidnapping and terrorism, with colleagues citing her steadiness under pressure and ethics.

Former Met chief constable Andy Trotter, who later led British Transport police, said: “I have seen her operate in a counter-terrorism environment, working at the very highest levels, and remain calm. She inspires confidence.”

Dick was born, brought up and went to school in Oxford, and studied at university there, at Balliol College. For a short time she worked at an accountancy firm before joining the Met in 1983 as a constable in the West End.

In 1995 she transferred to the Thames Valley force, where she continued her rise through the ranks, becoming a protege of Sir Ian Blair – who himself became Met commissioner, only to resign mid-term. Dick returned to Scotland Yard in 2001 with a master’s degree in criminology and her reputation as a reformer was forged in the Met’s diversity directorate, formed after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry had damned the force as institutionally racist. She became known as a brilliant operational leader, leading Operation Trident, the unit tackling gun crime, particularly within black communities.

She became an assistant commissioner in 2009, and after two years was promoted to head of counter-terrorism, one of the top roles in policing. Friends said Dick loved that job but her relationship with commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe became strained. She was moved out of the role and then started looking to leave the Met.

She unsuccessfully applied to lead the Police Service of Northern Ireland and then landed a director-general role at the Foreign Office.

Trotter said Dick’s personal skills means she can operate with high level politicians and in tough predominantly male environments. He remembers her at a boxing night where fighters from the police were taking on the army, around 2010, with Dick sat with no-nonsense detectives from the Flying Squad: “She was utterly charming and at ease in this very male environment, with detectives who thought so highly of her.”

One of Dick’s lowest moments was the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, mistaken for a terrorist in an operation she was commanding, in 2005. It led to the Met facing a criminal trial for health and safety violations, which it lost. But Dick testified in front of the jury for more than three days, and jurors made it clear no personal blame was to be placed on her for the debacle.

The next five years as commissioner promise more tense and demanding episodes like that and Dick will hope to master the turmoil.

Contributor

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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