Sarah Everard: Is ‘Resign Cressida’ really the right move for women?

As the aftermath continues to unfold after the brutal kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police Officer, is demanding the resignation of the woman in charge really the right move for women? – asks Jacob Bradfield

An old-style lantern on a Police Station in London (Photo by Maggie Yap on Unsplash)

Sarah Everard

When the news broke on Friday 12 March 2021 that serving Metropolitan Police Officer, Wayne Couzens, had been charged with the horrific kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Marketing Executive, Sarah Everard, shockwaves rippled across the country.

Vigils erupted amidst huge public outrage and demands erupted for Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Metropolitan Police Service, London), Dame Cressida Dick, to resign over a series of failures in relation to this case, previous cases and the aggressive handling of the Clapham Common vigil.

Despite these calls, Dick remained and had her tenure at the helm of Scotland Yard extended by two years.

In light of the sentencing of Couzens to a whole life order on 30 September, resurfaced allegations that his behaviour was well-known as concerning, to say the least, alongside the force issuing advice that women should protect themselves from suspect Police Officers, renewed calls for Dame Dick to resign have emerged.

Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick (Photo: Metropolitan Police Service)

No matter how firm she holds, Dick has serious questions to answer. As the news about Couzens’ sentence dominated the news cycle, former Metropolitan Chief Super-Intendent, Parm Sandhu, was on Radio 4’s the World at One alleging that the force, that Dick said was “rocked” by the events, was actually more aware of the culture that helped Couzens thrive than they like to let on. Something that many observers have commented on in the past.

According to Sandhu, the Met Police is “very sexist and misogynistic” and female officers operate in a culture of fear. One that forces them to make a choice between standing up against a toxic culture or staying silent. In standing up, they risk a predominantly white male force closing ranks to defend each other and being left alone in violent situations, by men that would prefer to see them beaten on the street than risk breaking the dangerous comradeship and unwavering loyalty that covers up so much wrongdoing.

Not only did the Couzens investigation, and subsequent sweep of his phone, reveal messages of a homophobic, misogynistic and racist nature severe enough to warrant potential criminal investigations into five of his colleagues, in official data the culture within the Met is made crystal clear.

More than half of Met Police Officers that were found guilty of sexual misconduct, over the four years until 2020, kept their jobs. One woman every week makes allegations of domestic abuse against an officer or a Met employee, and as we herd from Sandhu, this is just the tip of the iceberg with most sitting under water too scared to come forward.

A Police Officer stands outside Buckingham Palace (Photo by Tom Grünbauer on Unsplash)

The Met have responded to this crisis of public faith by ordering an additional 650 officers out onto the street with extra patrols, but as Ash Sarkar of Novara Media points out: Couzens was not a murderer who happened to be a Police Officer, he was a Police Officer who was able to use the equipment and authority given to him by that office that commit murder – through falsely arresting Ms Everard and placing her in handcuffs. Nor were the cases of Jeffrey Davies, Erling Leask, Derek Seekings or Mark Kennedy, all of whom used their authority as a Police Officer to commit their crimes.

So as these new officers roll out on to the street, one could hope they would be of good quality, but with vetting failures abundant in existing officers I have little faith.

Cressida Dick suggesting in 2019 that, whilst she was outraged at the blatant severe corruption in TV dramas such as Bodyguard and Line of Duty, they had a “net-positive” impact on the force as they made them look “a bit cool and interesting” and “bring in interest and applications” isn’t particularly soothing either. If people that see the sex, corruption and violence of TV dramas as the world they want to be in and this is a “net-positive” for the Commissioner, no wonder the Met is stocked with sexual deviants, thugs and those that cover their back.

Should Dame Dick resign?

Now, I’m no fan of Dame Dick. Her approach to protests of all variations has shown little to be desired in terms of human rights. Her ramping up of stop and search which disproportionately targets black people by 9 times is similarly galling. Her decision to transfer to MI5 whilst Scotland Yard were investigating human rights abuses by the intelligence agency is similarly concerning. The fact she was the Officer in Charge in the operation that wrongfully killed Jean Charles de Menezes, when he was repeatedly shot in the head in Stockwell Tube Station, after being falsely identified as a terrorist, well… I don’t think that requires words. I am no fan of Cressida Dick.

But… if we are looking solely at this one issue. The issue of evident institutional misogyny within the Met. What alternative to Dame Dick do we have? She is evidently failing to grapple the internal culture, but with a staff of over 40,000 people in its four departments, and just 34.9% of these being women, is this entirely her fault?

As we’ve already heard from senior former officers, the culture within the organisation is one which breeds the closing of ranks between male officers, who make up the majority of the organisation. Female representation in the Met is increasing, but only in the form of Police Officers, and even this is fluctuating rather than on a consistent upwards trajectory. Police staff, PCSOs and Special Officers departments have all seen a fluctuating decrease in female representation. From the reports coming from former female officers, I don’t think it takes too much interrogating to see why.

With pressure on Dick from politicians to do their bidding, pressure from the public to act on a whole variety of issues and, presumably, intense pressure from the male-dominated environment that keeps secrets before they can reach her desk. Maybe it is worth just thinking for a second before we demand the resignation of a lesbian woman from the helm – who may, for all we know, be fighting intensely an unwinnable battle against a substantial section of her workforce – before an inevitable straight man rising through the boys’ club takes it back for the comrades.

Then again, she worked for MI5 and is Dame Dick after all, maybe she can’t be trusted, but we should be concerned about demanding resignation when we don’t know the line up. You almost always get something worse than the ‘worst’ that you think you have now.

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