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September 12, 2006
While the Metropolitan Police had tried to slip the news out quietly (leaving it until after the newspaper journalists had gone home this evening), it seems the promotion of Commander Cressida Dick to Assistant Commissioner has still caused a considerable stir.
Commander Dick was the officer in charge of the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy adopted after the July 7th bombings, which resulted in the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, who officers assumed was a suicide bomber. His family have apparently – through a spokesperson – expressed their disgust at the news.
On the Metropolitan Police Authority’s website – where the news was announced – the following paragraph was included into a press release, indicating that the Authority knew the promotion would be controversial:
Clearly there are some sensitive and unprecedented circumstances involved. Candidates were chosen on the basis of their application and ability. The MPA would not prejudice an officer’s fair promotion prospects by making assumptions about future disciplinary action. Officers will not be posted into new posts until outstanding issues are resolved.
BBC News Online already has the story as their second headline – Menezes Police Officer Promoted – suggesting that news organisations who decide to take a more explicit line on the issue will have plenty of material to work with.
There’s little that newspapers like more than slagging off the police, and I’m sure many papers will put the boot in tomorrow at what could be seen as a serious misjudgement. The Daily Mail inparticular has never forgiven the Met for letting off the killers of Stephen Lawrence, and has taken on the crusade of bringing about justice all on its own.
Personally I don’t think that giving an order of ‘shoot-to-kill’ – which subsequently resulted in an accidental death – is enough reason to end a police officer’s career, and it certainly isn’t the job of the press to judge whether she is guilty or not. It’s entirely possible that Commander Dick has unrivalled leadership skills – don’t expect the newspapers to mention her specialist training in hostage negotiation, for instance – that make her an asset to the Met.
Sadly much of the media will probably overlook her good qualities and use her as a scapegoat as part of the fractious relationship they have with the police. While the de Menezes family has a right to be angry and ask questions of the police’s actions, there’s a danger that they will throw the blame at everyone, and none of it will stick.