Leader comment: Right person for Met job

A woman being the first to be appointed to a particular job should not really be worth remarking upon in this day and age unless it is seen as a criticism that it has taken so long for the organisation to get with the times.

The new Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick outside New Scotland Yard on Victoria Embankment, London, after she became the first woman to hold the most senior post in British policing. Picture: Charlotte Ball/PA Wire

And so it is with the Metropolitan Police after the announcement that Cressida Dick is to become the force’s first female leader in its 188-year history. But the fact is that there are probably particular reasons why it has taken this long for them to do so.

The Met in particular has a reputation for being a very macho force, and also one where old cultures seem very hard to shift. Ms Dick herself has said she doubted if the force would ever be free of institutionalised racism.

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But Ms Dick is no softie and she has personally been through some very tough times, her anguish at the shooting of innocent Jean Charles de Menezes as a suspected terrorist following the London 2005 bombings, an operation in which she was commander, was obviously heart-felt, even although an inquiry found she had no personal blame in the matter.

So we should be glad that Ms Dick has taken over at the helm of the Met, but not only because it is an advance in gender equality. Ms Dick has proved herself a competent leader and a successful police officer. She has plenty of the right experience, given she started as a constable on the streets of London. But perhaps the experience that will count most is her time as the Met’s Assistant Commissioner in charge of counter-terror with responsibility for security operations around the London Olympics.

Countering terrorism is where her greatest challenge will lie.