After many calls for her resignation, Dick is the latest in a line of commissioners to be blamed for the police service’s failures
In 1955, after being presented with a damning report on corruption within the Metropolitan police, the then commissioner, Sir John Nott-Bower, went to West End Central police station, stood on a chair and reassured his officers that he did not believe a word of it. The days when a commissioner could quite so breezily dispose of criticism have long passed, as Cressida Dick learned from the many calls for her to resign before she was finally confirmed in office this month for a further two years. But how much personal responsibility should the holder of the top policing job in the country have for failings within the service they lead?
Nott-Bower came from an era when the Met was led by men – never, until Dick, by a woman – many of whom had backgrounds in the senior ranks of the armed services and when press coverage of the police was largely deferential. However, his successor, Joseph Simpson, had to deal with a public furore over a corrupt detective, Harold “Tanky” Challenor, who had planted half-bricks on demonstrators against the Greek royal family and only escaped jail on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to plead. John Waldron, who followed Simpson, was in charge in 1969 when an investigation in the Times lifted the lid on widespread corruption – he just managed to survive. His successor, Sir Robert Mark, was left with the job of, as he drily put it, “arresting more criminals than we employ”. Almost every commissioner since then has found a hand grenade left in their in-tray.