Rule changes required to protect Met Police Commissioners

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Rule changes required to protect Met Police Commissioners
Susan Hall credit City of London Corporation

Rule changes are needed to ensure Met Police Commissioners are not sacked unfairly by the Mayor of London, City Hall politicians have said.

Writing to Mayor Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, the London Assembly’s police and crime committee said the process for dismissing Met chiefs needs to become more democratic.

A spokesman for Mr Khan said there were already “processes in place to ensure any move to remove a Police Commissioner by a Mayor is properly scrutinised”, and that the committee’s proposed changes were “not needed”.

The committee’s intervention comes after the departure of Dame Cressida Dick as Commissioner last year, and a subsequent report by Sir Tom Winsor, which found that Dame Cressida “felt intimidated” into stepping down after an ultimatum from Mr Khan.

Dame Cressida quit in February 2022, after clashing with the Mayor on the Met’s response to a report exposing misogyny, bullying and harassment by 14 officers at Charing Cross police station, amid growing concern that the force was losing public trust. She said she had to resign after Mr Khan made it clear he had “no confidence” in her leadership.

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But Sir Tom found that Mr Khan did not follow “due process” when he withdrew his support.

Mr Khan went on to call Sir Tom’s review – commissioned by the then-Home Secretary Priti Patel – “clearly biased”, claiming it “ignores the facts”. Sir Tom rejected Mr Khan’s comments as “absurd”.

At City Hall, the Assembly’s cross-party police and committee has examined the findings of Sir Tom’s review.

In letters to Mr Khan and Ms Braverman, the committee’s chair Susan Hall said she and her colleagues agreed with a potential reform suggested by Sir Tom, to make the process for dismissing Met Commissioners more democratic.

The reform would require a two thirds majority of the Assembly to approve or refuse a Mayor’s request to dismiss a Met Commissioner.

The Mayor currently only needs approval from the Home Secretary – whose veto would remain in place even if the Assembly was given its say.

In the case of Dame Cressida, she was said by Sir Tom to have been intimidated into leaving before Mr Khan got to the stage of contacting Ms Patel to request her formal dismissal.

Sir Tom suggested involving the Assembly as one of nine options to improve accountability in the process.

He said: “Although this could not prevent the Mayor circumventing the statutory removal process, it would raise the political cost to him of doing so.

“If the London Assembly’s right to approve or veto the Mayor’s removal of the Commissioner were denied by circumvention, the Assembly could be required to consider a vote of no confidence in the Mayor.”

Agreeing with Sir Tom, Ms Hall wrote to Mr Khan: “Requiring the approval of the London Assembly (elected by Londoners) in order for the holder of your office (also elected by Londoners) to begin the statutory removal procedure for a Met Commissioner makes sense and seems like a good check and balance.”

Responding, a spokesman for Mr Khan said the reform was “not required”. He added: “There are processes in place to ensure any move to remove a police Commissioner by a Mayor is properly scrutinised.

“They did not apply in the case of the former Commissioner because the statutory process was never invoked.”

A Home Office spokesman did not directly respond to the question of whether Ms Braverman agreed with the proposed reform, but said: “We are continuing to review the recommendations made in Sir Tom’s report and will implement any changes necessary to improve accountability arrangements for the Commissioner.”

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