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Cressida Dick and the Mayor: 'a public humiliation'

Chris Hobbs, who worked with Cressida Dick, provides a personal perspective on her controversial downfall

It’s hard to believe that the Independent Office for Police Conduct weren’t aware that elements of their Operation Hotton report wouldn’t have an exploding hand-grenade effect on the Met and its workforce including the Commissioner.

Unlike the IOPC, Cressida Dick will be only too well aware that the tsunami of negative publicity and the collective smearing of all male Met officers, will make life increasingly difficult and dangerous for those on the front line, as thugs will feel even more emboldened in terms of their willingness to abuse and attack officers.

It’s not ‘a few bad apples.’

The phrase from the IOPC report most quoted by a media already hostile to the Commissioner and the Met was “these incidents are not isolated or simply the behaviour of a few bad apples,” which the media interpreted as the situation that exists not just at Charing Cross police station but throughout the Met; an interpretation confirmed by the lengthy list of ‘recommendations made by the IOPC designed to tackle alleged rampant ‘misogyny, racism, bullying and homophobia.’

How ironic therefore, that, together with their female colleagues, the homophobic, misogynist male officers of the Met are absolutely furious that their openly gay, female boss has been humiliated and forced to resign.

There is no doubt that the behaviour of the errant officers at Charing Cross was appalling; a fact acknowledged across police social media. It is puzzling that given the details contained within the report in terms of the ‘thousands’ of messages and numerous instances of poor behaviour, that, after three years, only 14 officers were identified as requiring disciplinary action. The Met seem unable to provide an approximate number of officers who work from Charing Cross but it is probably in the region of 800.

The report refers to ‘bell ringing” and “shouting,” poor treatment of probationers and women being treated as “weary females” when complaining about the behaviour of male officers. Again, the methodology together with some sort of indication as to how many of the 800 or so officers were making these assertions would be a useful guide as to how concerned we Londoners should be. The observation in relation to appalling treatment of, it would seem, BAME officers was especially disturbing and needs clarification.

Recruitment, vetting, training, mental health and supervision

The IOPC has raised concerns that are in fact shared by the police SM community in terms of recruitment, vetting and training. Many yearn for a return to the residential training schools yet sadly these, including the world-renowned Hendon, have been casualties of the cutbacks.

Vetting became an issue due to the murderous, unspeakably vile behaviour of Wayne Couzens and a thorough, albeit expensive, vetting process is clearly desirable to eliminate those who should never be allowed anywhere near a police uniform. Having said that, I would say that during my 32-year-career, I met and worked with hundreds of police officers. Of those, I encountered about 40 who I found to be unpleasant individuals that I felt shouldn’t be involved in policing. The reality is, however, that most officers are simply good people.

Even if the old- style training establishments were restored and effective vetting established there would still be some who would ‘beat the system’. Perhaps consideration should be given to adding some form of psychometric testing to the mix.

Finally, in relation to this key issue, the IOPC report does allude to the fact that traumatic incidents could adversely the mental state and attitude of individual officers. An officer perfectly suited to policing could conceivably suffer a major, detrimental personality change involving mental health issues upon encountering trauma or repeated trauma.  This surely merits continued, in-depth research.

The above issues are linked to supervision and supervisors, notably front-line sergeants who frequently find themselves weighed down by bureaucratic paperwork and unable to get ‘out and about’ to directly supervise their officers. The closure of police stations also hampers supervision with officers encouraged to stay ‘out and about’ thus reducing their contact with supervisory ranks and indeed departments such as the CID who, before the cutbacks, would have been able to offer much needed advice.

The closure of police canteens has now been accepted as an act of folly. Far from spawning and fostering an undesirable canteen culture, canteens were where inappropriate behaviour could and was challenged. They were also places where officers could ‘vent’ their frustrations, seek advice, relax and have multiple shoulders to cry on after dealing with a traumatic incident.  Canteens were venues where supervisors, even if confined to the building clearing paperwork, could ‘catch up’ with their officers and effectively debrief them in respect of incidents attended.

Baroness Casey

Baroness Louise Casey is, at the behest of Cressida Dick, beginning some form of enquiry into the alleged toxic culture that exists amongst rank- and- file Met police officers. It will be interesting to see how such an inquiry is conducted. I suspect every officer and retired officer will, during a lengthy period of service, will have endured some form of inappropriate behaviour such as bullying.

I could, by simply recounting ‘bumps in the road,’ during my 32 years in the Met portray a torrid career and a failed organisation. Whilst the incidents would be factual, they would, in isolation present a totally distorted view of what was a rewarding career.

I suspect that if the Baroness simply focuses on ‘closed questions’ such as ‘have you experienced any form of misogyny in the Met during your career,’ many would say yes. It may have been relatively trivial and just once or twice over 30 years (and of course it may not) but the resultant screaming headlines would doubtless state that misogyny is rife and every male officer was or is an active or potential predator.

Conversely, if the question was posed to female officers asking whether the overwhelming majority of male colleagues were both professional and respectful and could be trusted, the response will hopefully paint a totally different picture. I was going refer to resultant headlines when such a report was published, but of course an inquiry that didn’t damn the Met would be of little interest to the media.

Hopefully, the Baroness will actually call for evidence from both serving and retired officers which would dispel many of current concerns. It is, of course, worthy of note that Cressida Dick herself would, as do all senior officers, have risen through the ranks and would have supervised hundreds of male officers. It will be interesting to hear of her experiences during this period, when, hopefully she publishes her memoirs

Certainly, based on comments from officers I’ve spoken to and who were supervised by her when she was an Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent and Chief Superintendent, she was both popular and hugely respected.

It could be that the ‘top job’ was too big for her; it could be that the job is now too big for anyone.

London’s Mayor.

There is no doubt that London’s police are furious at the capital’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan. He cites bullying as part of the Met’s toxic culture, yet he publicly humiliated the Commissioner by placing her on the ‘naughty step’ when he proclaimed she was being placed ‘on notice.’

He then effectively sacked her when he deemed her proposals for reform inadequate. Perhaps, this could have been a situation where the Commissioner and the Mayor together with his policing deputy, could have actually worked out what needed to be done in partnership. At least that would ensure that any allegation that the Commissioner was being set up to fail could not be levelled at the Mayor or the Mayor’s office.

The mayor’s critics will, inevitably point to his ‘flip flop’ in relation to stop and search.

His article in Sunday’s Observer was also laced with contradictions. He expressed his disgust with the findings of the IOPC’s Charing Cross report which, as stated, effectively smeared all Met officers present and past. The mayor then dramatically claimed that when a child living on a south London estate, he and his brothers would cross the road to avoid police officers due to ‘fear’ of being ‘unjustly targeted.’

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/12/sadiq-khan-i-recall-the-bad-old-days-of-the-metropolitan-police-never-again

Amazingly he appears to be claiming credit for a reduction in knife crime seemingly oblivious of the fact that the primary tactic of stop and search results in officers being labelled at racist.

Finally, doubtless to cover all bases he proclaims; “There are thousands of decent, dedicated and brave police officers in London who are doing an incredible job.” He then seems to suggest that the Met is split into two camps, with decent, dedicated and brave ‘sharing his aspirations’ and eager to play their part (with him) in raising standards.

He appears not to have considered that those who do an ‘incredible job’ are less than impressed with the cavalier, bullying humiliation of their highly respected boss or the fact that they have been collectively smeared by all and sundry.

So where are we now? We have a police force under attack from all sides, with its officers, especially its male officers collectively smeared.

Those officers will wonder exactly who they can trust and who will have their backs yet they will still be expected to answer those emergency calls and do their best to keep London’s public safe despite the overwhelming demands placed on them.

All officers will also be aware that the people of this country are heading for difficult times where the crippling effect of rising costs and prices could see levels of public disorder that may even exceed the levels of violence and destruction seen in 2011.

You can be certain that those in the media and politicians, including the Home Secretary and the Mayor, who constantly denigrate police will then be desperately hoping that the thin, demoralised blue line doesn’t break.

I also suspect that most Met officers will, in the event of a line of duty tragedy befalling them, be instructing family members that under no circumstances will they want the Mayor of London anywhere near their funeral.

Chris Hobbs is a retired Met Special Branch officer  

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