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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October 2004, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
The force behind Operation Trident
By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

Commander Cressida Dick
Cressida Dick is one of the Met's most senior female officers
The Met's specialist unit fighting gun crime in London's black community has unveiled a hard-hitting new advertising campaign and the officer heading the team has spoken about the task ahead.

Think of a police unit fighting gun crime and the image that comes to mind is no doubt of a macho male preserve.

But it's one of the Metropolitan Police's handful of senior female officers who heads the best-known of the specialist units dedicated to tackling it.

Cressida Dick is a commander in the Specialist Crime Directorate in charge of the 300 officers of Operation Trident, the London force's unit focusing on gun crime among the city's black communities.

It's a tough job with the unit dealing with more than 120 shooting incidents already this year, 10 of them fatal.

High-profile incidents like the recent shooting of an 18-month-old child in Hackney means the unit is constantly under pressure from worried communities to bring those involved to justice swiftly.

Few black officers

With over 20 years of service, Commander Dick, 44, started off as a beat officer in the West End of London.

She's been in her current post for 14 months.

I look forward to the day when we don't need Trident
Commander Cressida Dick

"Firstly I think it's an extremely important job. It is challenging, it's always interesting. The people I work with are really interesting and fun people to work with.

"At the end of the end there is huge job satisfaction because we think we're doing a good job against a very, very big and difficult problem," she says.

As the former head of the Met's Diversity directorate she's keenly aware that while around 12.5% of London's population is black, there are very few black members of the Trident team.

Of the 300 Trident officers only 16 are black.

"We have fewer black officers than I would ideally like but we have more than we used to have and we are taking a number of steps to ensure that continues to increase.

"The Met itself has far fewer black officers than we would presently like and there's a great deal of effort going in to improve that," she says.

'People trust Trident'

In the meantime, says Ms Dick, she and her officers try to ensure they are in tune with the communities they are serving.

"All of us work all the time with our independent advisors and other people from the community who will bring us up short if we are being insensitive or we're making a mistake."

"I go to a lot of community events, I talk to people who've been affected by gun crime. On occasion I talk to offenders and rehabilitated offenders," she says.

It's a strategy that's obviously working with a steadily falling gun crime rate being attributed in part to the willingness of more black people than ever to come forward with information.

"In some senses people trust Trident more than they appear to trust some other parts of the Metropolitan Police and I think that's a great credit to the officers," Ms Dick says.

Latest figures show gun murders among London's black population are down by nearly a quarter on the 2003 figure while attempted murders have fallen by nearly 40%. But Commander Dick is not complacent.

"We've clearly got a lot further to go, there are still sadly people being shot dead and people having their lives ruined by being shot or having a member of their family shot.

"I look forward to the day when we don't need Trident, I'm not sure when it will be but I look forward to it.

And I look forward to a day when gun crime does not disproportionately affect London's black community as it does at the moment."


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