Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick admitted that the murder of Sarah Everard by a policeman on duty had “shamed” the police, but made no mention of reforms.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey after Wayne Couzens was given a rare life sentence for arranging a false arrest before he kidnapped, raped and murdered Everard, Dick said she acknowledged the “brutal murder” “had damaged confidence in the police.
Police are facing questions about the potential missed opportunities to arrest Couzens, who allegedly exposed himself indecently in Kent in 2015 and at a McDonald’s in London days before the March 2021 murder.
“This man has shamed the Met. Frankly speaking as an organization, we were shocked, ”she said. “I absolutely know that there are those who feel that their confidence in us is being shaken. I recognize that for some people a precious bond of trust has been damaged.
Dick said she would do everything in her power to make sure lessons were learned, but did not describe any action.
A senior Labor MP called for Dick’s resignation because women’s confidence in the police “will have been shattered”. Harriet Harman said it would be impossible for Dick to oversee the changes needed to restore confidence.
But Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would “continue to work with” the commissioner despite “serious questions” the Met must answer. This month, Dick’s contract was extended by two years, which means she will continue to lead the Met until 2024. When asked if Dick should step down, Patel said: “I will continue. to work with the metropolitan police and the commissioner to hold them accountable like everyone else. I would expect that I would.
Appearing before the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, Steve House, the Met’s deputy commissioner, said there was no escape from the blame for the force. “We should own this,” he said. “He [Couzens] was one of us and we have to examine ourselves very, very carefully to understand … how was he allowed to be one of us, and what does that say about us as an organization … Organizationally, we have this… guilt.
Among the changes he said the Met was working on to address women’s concerns, including the identity of officers, included:
Deploy plainclothes officers in pairs – and not alone – in the future, to address concerns about rogue men or off-duty detectives posing as police officers.
Allow phone calls to a control room to verify the identity of an agent; people can already call 101 to do so.
Change the situation according to which “the sanctions taken against [male police] colleagues who have transgressed are not severe enough ”.
He insisted there was “zero tolerance” for misogyny in the force, but said officers “must facilitate greater trust” and that “we understand that the onus is on the police officer to prove his identity”.
The Met came under criticism as the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said two of its officers and a former officer were under criminal investigation for alleged offensive messages sent after the murder of Everard by Couzens. Six people, three Met (MPS) officers, one from the Civilian Nuclear Police, one from Norfolk Police and a former Met officer, were under investigation.
The IOPC said: “They are under investigation for serious misconduct for allegedly sending messages of a discriminatory and / or inappropriate nature, and for allegedly failing to challenge messages sent by others.
“Two of the MPS agents and the former MPS officer were also informed that they were the subject of a criminal investigation for misuse of the public electronic communications network under section 127 of the Law on communications. “
The IOPC said it had no update on claims the Met missed the opportunity to identify Couzens as a threat by not investigating incidents of indecent exposure quickly enough.