Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 15:41 UK

Profile: Commander Cressida Dick

Cressida Dick
Cressida Dick became a Met commander in July 2001

The senior officer described as the "decision maker" on the day that Jean Charles de Menezes was killed has repeatedly said the officers involved were not at fault in the run-up to the shooting.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick was the commander responsible for the operation that ultimately led to the Brazilian's death.

It was her job as the "gold commander" to co-ordinate the surveillance officers, specialist firearms teams and other police as they attempted to catch the men behind the 21 July bombings.

But during the trial of the Metropolitan Police over the shooting, the prosecution claimed Cmdr Dick made a string of strategic mistakes, which contributed to the tragedy.

It was an accusation she vehemently rejected. She entered the witness box knowing she was not under criminal suspicion - and sought to leave it having explained the realities of policing a crisis.

While the jury found the Met as a whole guilty, they took the unusual step of further declaring they believed there was "no personal culpability for Commander Cressida Dick".

At the inquest into the death of Mr de Menezes, Ms Dick said her team had not been at fault during the events that had led to the shooting.

High-flyer

She told the inquest: "If you are asking me did we do anything wrong or unreasonable, then I don't think we did."

Cmdr Dick, 46, was born and brought up in Oxford. She was educated at Oxford High School, went on to join the university and graduated from Balliol College.

A guide to how police shot Jean Charles de Menezes

She travelled and worked briefly in accountancy. But in 1983 her thoughts turned to a policing career and she first walked the beat as a constable in the West End of London.

Within a decade she had risen through the ranks to become a chief inspector after being fast-tracked into promotion. She was seconded for a time to the Bramshill Police Training College in Hampshire. Her first command post came with a brief stint with Thames Valley Police.

The high-flying graduate is typical of a new breed of police officer - people recruited with the expectation of making it to the top because of demands for a more complex managerial approach to law enforcement.

Indeed, after her posting to Thames Valley she took a career break and studied for a masters degree in criminology from Cambridge.

She returned to active service as a Metropolitan Police commander in June 2001 and soon joined the force's specialist crime directorate.

Ms Dick commanded firearms operations in threat-to-life and kidnap situations, was trained as a hostage negotiator and spent time in charge of Scotland Yard's diversity unit.

Her skills and experience led to her becoming one of a handful of senior Met officers trained to deal with potential shoot-to-kill operations after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Tough post

Cressida Dick has had a succession of tough postings that have professionally tested her to the limit.

In the wake of the inquiry into the killing of Stephen Lawrence, Cmdr Dick became head of Scotland Yard's diversity unit. In May 2002 she said the Met remained "institutionally racist", the key criticism in the inquiry's conclusions.

In the summer of 2003, she moved to the Met's Specialist Crime Directorate - one of the highest pressure top jobs in the force outside of the recently established counter-terrorism command. The job included running 300 Operation Trident officers - the Met's specialist unit tackling gun crime within black communities.

July 2005 attacks

In the crisis of the July 2005 bombings, Cressida Dick was one of the key officers who came to the fore. On 22 July, she arrived at Scotland Yard in the early hours of the morning to become the "gold commander" responsible for "tactical delivery" on the ground.

I'm not anxious, I rarely get anxious, I do not have anxiety
Cressida Dick, during her evidence

She was named the designated officer for Operation Kratos - the Met's codename for special tactics to deal with a suicide bomber - tactics that include shoot to kill without warning.

Cmdr Dick defended her actions on the day. The Scotland Yard logs, she told the court, showed the care and deliberation she believed she and her team took over running the operation.

During tough cross-examination, Cmdr Dick's responses were nuanced and anything but flamboyant or showy. She told the jury that policing an unfolding emergency is rarely a black-and-white situation. She painted a picture of police chiefs dealing with percentage certainties on fragments of intelligence.

"Given what I now know and what I was told at the time, I wouldn't change those decisions," she told the jury.

"I, like everybody else, was coming into work that morning with the intention of trying to keep everybody safe. I and others acted diligently throughout. We did our very best trying to save life."

When Clare Montgomery QC for the prosecution suggested Cmdr Dick was anxious during the critical stages of the operation, the officer hit back.

"I'm not anxious," she added. "I rarely get anxious, I do not have anxiety."

Promotion

Despite the controversy around 22 July, Cmdr Dick was promoted to deputy assistant commissioner in September 2006 - placing her close to the inner circle of police chiefs running the Met.

Mr de Menezes' family said they were "absolutely disgusted and outraged" by the move. But Cmdr Dick's appointment had many supporters.

Len Duvall, chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority who signed off the promotion, has described her as a very capable officer.

Critically, many observers believe her promotion was not just deserved - but a signal that she was not going to be hung out to dry over what happened. The jury shared that view in their post-verdict statement that the commander was blameless.

Hindsight, say supporters, was something not available to Cmdr Dick on the day Jean Charles de Menezes died.




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