Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick says she will not step down over the policing at a vigil for Sarah Everard.
CRESSIDA DICK: I'd like to start by saying the events of last week for poor Sarah and her family were absolutely ghastly, just a horrible, horrible set of events, which I think has touched the whole nation. I know I can speak for my people when I say there's incredible strength of feeling, anger, and sadness and a real determination to get justice for Sarah.
And in the last couple of days, I've been out with my investigation teams, my search teams, my forensics teams, my neighborhood teams. All the women and men of the Met are outraged at what has happened. And they're working as hard as they can to get justice for Sarah.
In that context, none of us would have wanted to see the scenes we saw at the end of yesterday's events. Worth saying, of course, I fully understand the strength of feeling. I think, as a woman and hearing from people about their experiences in the past and what they feel about what happened to Sarah and what has been going on, I understand why so many people wanted to come and pay their respects and kind of make a statement about this.
Indeed, if it had been lawful, I'd have been there. I'd have been at a vigil. And six hours of yesterday was really calm and peaceful. Very few police officers around, respectful, people laying flowers, not gathering, and a vigil that did not breach the regulations.
Unfortunately, later on, we had a really big crowd that gathered, lots of speeches. And quite rightly, as far as I can see, my team felt this is now an unlawful gathering which poses a considerable risk to people's health, according to the regulations, a really invidious position for my officers to find themselves in. But they then moved to try to explain to people, to engage with people, to get people to disperse from this unlawful gathering. And many, many, many people did. Unfortunately, a small minority did not.
- The mayor called those scenes completely unacceptable. The Home Secretary described them as upsetting. When you saw those pictures, did you agree? Did you think it was unacceptable the way in which your officers acted?
CRESSIDA DICK: I wouldn't have wanted to see a vigil in memory of Sarah end with those scenes. And that's why this morning, I said, from what I can tell-- I wasn't there. But from what I can tell, my officers, in a very difficult position, as they have been again and again in the last year, policing within the code of coronavirus restrictions, having to uphold the law, having to be impartial, having to be fair, but of course, trying to apply common sense and discretion and, if people don't understand the law, trying to help them to understand and engage and engage and speak and speak before we ever turn to any enforcement.
But that is why I said, we didn't want it to end like that. Let's have a review. So I welcome the fact that this appears now-- the Home Secretary, I believe, has asked for the HMR to review it. I've spoken in the day to both the Home Secretary and the mayor. I'm very comfortable with that. And I think my officers will be as well.
- They, it seems though, were not comfortable with your reasoning. They've both come out and said they're not satisfied with that meeting and the responses and answers you have given. The Home Secretary believes there are still questions to be answered. The mayor says he's not satisfied.
CRESSIDA DICK: So I can't speak for them. And you've interpreted what they have said.
- They said it a statement.
CRESSIDA DICK: What I can say is that I think it would be good for public confidence for this policing operation, in the context that it was taking place in the round, given, of course, the extraordinary strength of feeling that there was at the time, but also given the fact that we're still in a pandemic, unlawful gatherings are unlawful gatherings, officers have to take action if people are putting themselves massively at risk. What we do in one event sets a precedent for other events.
I am really comfortable that we review what happened. I don't think anybody who was not in the operation can actually pass a detailed comment on the rightness and wrongness of it. This is fiendishly difficult policing. But also, I'm sure for the people who wanted to you express their feelings, that was a difficult situation for them. And that's why it needs a cold light of day, sober review. And I think we're all agreed on that.
- There have been calls from all quarters, many quarters for you to resign. Are you considering your position?
CRESSIDA DICK: No, I'm not. What happened to Sarah appalls me. As you know, I'm the first woman commissioner of the Met. Perhaps it appalls me in a way even more because of that. What has happened makes me more determined, not less, to lead my organization.
I've listened to what people have been saying in the last week. I know that in the streets all across the UK, women don't feel as safe as we would all like women to feel. I am utterly determined.
We've done an awful lot in the last three years to bring down violence, to, for example, set up our predatory offender units, get nasty violence-- all-male, I might say-- people arrested and charged for horrible violence against women. But there must be more we as the Met can do. There must be more the criminal justice system can do. And there must be more that wider society can do to ensure that women can walk around our streets being safer than they are now and feeling safer than they are now.
So my view is I'm entirely focused on that. I'm focused on growing the Met to be even stronger and even better, together with others, at keeping women safe. And that's my job right now.
- Growing the Met-- just one more. Growing the Met is going to be much harder, given what's happened in terms of reputational damage. Do you feel you have an apology to your frontline officers, who are bearing the brunt of some of the fury and the feeling that is out there at the moment?
CRESSIDA DICK: I feel for my officers. I feel for them every day. I've just told you, I've been out with them a great deal in the last 36 hours. That's the sort of commissioner I am. I completely recognize that they are, particularly in this last year, often finding themselves in very, very difficult situations.
They are policing during a pandemic. Nobody wants a third wave to happen. It's only a few weeks since the NHS was on its knees. They have a really difficult job. They have to make fine judgments. They often don't have infinite information or all the time in the world. They have to make these really difficult calls.
And I don't think anybody should be sitting back in an armchair and saying, well, that was done badly or I would have done it differently without actually understanding what was going through their minds. I guarantee that every single officer who was policing last night, like me, would rather we were not in a time of coronavirus. There could be a large, peaceful set of vigils all over the country. And Most. Of them would have been at those vigils.
And I guarantee also that my officers up and down London and beyond, if they weren't working, will have been thinking of Sarah at 9:30 last night. They would have been lighting that candles or pausing. And it's something we care about very, very deeply.