Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has hit out at those who “rush to judgment” after viewing controversial clips of officers posted on social media.
Speaking at the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) annual conference on Tuesday, she singled out public figures who should understand “the dangers of jumping to erroneous conclusions”.
Dame Cressida said the coronavirus pandemic will be one of the defining moments in the history of policing, with memories of “the bravery, the calmness, the determination” of officers remembered for years in the same way as during the Second World War or counter-terrorism in the wake of 9/11.
But she said the period has also seen a rise in aggression against officers and a failure to give them the benefit of the doubt over incidents that draw attention on social media.
Dame Cressida told the PSA conference: “In recent months, far too regularly, we have seen quick judgment of the actions of individual officers based on a viral clip, or a section of footage showing part of an incident, or second-hand information before the full situation can possibly be known.
“Rushing to such judgments is dangerous. It undermines the legitimacy of policing and it makes officers feel they need to think twice, or maybe not even volunteer for the role.”
She went on: “This is particularly undermining when it comes from people in public life – people who ought to understand some at least of the complexity, and the dangers of jumping to erroneous conclusions.”
The Metropolitan Police faced fierce criticism for their handling of a vigil in memory of murdered marketing executive Sarah Everard in south London in March, including from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who called for Dame Cressida to resign.
But watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services exonerated the force over its actions, saying there was no evidence of heavy handedness and that condemnation of the Met’s actions within hours of the vigil was unwarranted and undermined confidence in policing.
Dame Cressida added: “We are living in an age of immediacy, an age of outrage. A time when everyone has to have an opinion straight away about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong.
“Sometimes – call me old-fashioned – things need more time. We have to establish the facts.”