The death of London teacher Sabina Nessa should be the “final straw” for Dame Cressida Dick’s leadership of the Metropolitan Police, an activist has said.
Anna Birley, who co-founded Reclaim These Streets, a group which has organised several well-attended vigils for murdered women in the capital, has said women do not feel safe on the streets and a “fresh generation” of police leaders are needed.
The 32-year-old Labour and Co-operative councillor for Lambeth Council is supporting local women in Kidbrooke, south-east London, to organise a vigil remembering Ms Nessa, expected to be attended by 500 mourners.
The event is due to take place at 7pm on Friday in Pegler Square, where the 28-year-old teacher had been due to meet a friend at her local pub, The Depot, when she was fatally attacked just minutes away in Cator Park.
Ms Nessa’s death comes six months after the high-profile abduction of 33-year-old Sarah Everard by a serving Met Police officer in Clapham, south London.
Ms Birley said “very little” has changed since then and women feel “fobbed off” by the Met Police’s promises to engage more with their concerns while “failing to deal with misogyny and sexual misconduct in their own ranks”.
She quoted a Freedom of Information request by MyLondon which the paper said showed that 160 Metropolitan Police officers were accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct from the start of 2019 to the end of 2020.
Ms Birley told the PA news agency: “I think 160 Met Police officers over the past two years have been reported for sexual misconduct and very few of them have seen any consequence for their behaviour, so women need confidence that the person they’re reporting the crime to isn’t also a perpetrator of sexual violence.”
She added: “Culture is a product of leadership and I would say that in the Metropolitan Police and in forces across the country, police leadership needs to take a long hard look at itself as to whether it is genuinely doing all it can to stamp out misogyny within police culture.
“I think the answer to that is that no, they’re not doing all that they can. I think we need a fresh generation of police leaders, and that has to start with Cressida Dick not continuing in her post.
“She had her contract renewed for two years, which is so disappointing.
“It’s not just the handling of the Sarah Everard vigil and her failure to keep women safe, it’s that police officers on her watch harass and are violent towards women, while they are serving officers, it’s a whole host of failings by the Met Police while she’s been in charge, it’s extraordinary that she’s still there.
“Every time a woman dies on her watch we should be saying it’s the final straw for her leadership,” she added.
“A woman dies every three days at the hands of a man, so chances are that more have died since Sabina.”
A two-year extension to Dame Cressida’s current fixed-term appointment as Commissioner – which was due to end in April 2022 – was granted on September 10.
Met Police Detective Chief Superintendent Trevor Lawry has said officers are “listening to people” about their concerns over violence against women.
Asked what has changed since Ms Everard’s death during a press conference at Cator Park on Thursday, he said: “I think the main things that are changing are that, one, we’re listening to people, we’re understanding where people are feeling not so safe, and we’re putting out patrols to make sure that we do that.
“This isn’t just a policing issue, there’s lots of issues to be able to make people feel safe in an open space and we’re working with our partners to ensure we do that.”