The Metropolitan Police will be temporarily led by the controversial ex-chief of Police Scotland until a replacement for outgoing commissioner Dame Cressida Dick is found.
Sir Stephen House – Dame Cressida’s current second in command – will take the reins when his boss leaves in April, the home secretary has said.
Dame Cressida suddenly quit last month after a string of controversies, but agreed to stay on during the transition period.
Dame Cressida announced she was stepping down as Metropolitan Police Commissioner after London mayor Sadiq Khan said he had lost confidence in her leadership and her ability to “rebuild the trust” in the force.
It followed outrage over racist, misogynist and homophobic messages shared by a group of police officers at Charing Cross police station, the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Met police officer, and after it was found two constables had shared pictures of the bodies of murder victims Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry on WhatsApp.
It’s a contentious appointment for the force, as Sir Stephen faced a series of controversies at the helm of Police Scotland.
Police received a call from a passerby, but it took them three days to respond as Lamara Bell and John Yuill lay in their car on the M9 motorway. When officers finally arrived, Mr Yuill was dead, while Ms Bell died later in hospital.
Sir Stephen’s departure from Police Scotland also followed the death of Sheku Bayoh, a 31-year-old black man and young father who died in police custody after being restrained by officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
The announcement that Sir Stephen would temporarily lead the Met came as home secretary Priti Patel said there would be a review into the handling of Dame Cressida’s resignation by the outgoing chief inspector of constabulary.
In a written statement to the Commons on Monday, Ms Patel added: “The Metropolitan Police Service faces major challenges and needs to demonstrate sustained improvements in order to regain public trust in London and nationally. It is vital that we get the right person for the biggest leadership role in policing in this country.
“I will shortly launch the process to recruit a new Commissioner and anticipate that it will conclude in the summer. I will then make my formal recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen. My recommendation will pay regard to the views of the mayor of London, as occupant of the mayor’s office for policing and crime.
“In the immediate term following Dame Cressida’s departure, legislation enables the deputy commissioner, Sir Steve House, to exercise temporarily the powers and duties of the Commissioner.
“Sir Steve and the mayor of London must drive improvement even before the next Commissioner is in place to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Service restores trust and takes every necessary action to keep the public safe.”
Ms Patel praised Dame Cressida, saying she “deserves our profound gratitude” for decades of public service – and offered the outgoing Met chief “best wishes for the future.”
But a spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “Public trust in the Met Police is at the lowest level on record, following a series of devastating scandals including the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer and the overt racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and discrimination exposed at Charing Cross Police Station.
“It was against this backdrop that the mayor lost confidence in the ability of the current Met Commissioner to lead the deep-rooted change needed.
“The mayor is now working with the home secretary to appoint a new commissioner who understands the depths of the problems faced by the force and has a plan to restore the trust and confidence of Londoners.”
After Dick’s resignation, Sir Stephen wrote to Ms Patel calling for a review of Dame Cressida’s treatment by Mr Khan, saying due process had not been followed.