The resignation of Met Assistant Commissioner and head of counter terrorism John Yates is a very sad day for Counter Terrorism in the United Kingdom. We have lost a dedicated and immensely capable officer who oversaw counter-terrorism operations at a time when the threat from Islamic extremism was arguably at its peak and the warnings signs of an increase in Irish Republican terrorism appearing almost daily.
His personal role in providing the leadership of the Metropolitan Police’s response to the threat from terrorism will, no doubt, one day be given a fuller airing. Until then the Metropolitan Police, with its mind on the security measures that need to be put in place for the Olympic Games, has appointed Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick as his replacement. Let there be no doubt, despite her actions at Stockwell being exonerated, there are some that regard the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes as unfinished business. Her every action in her new role is going to be scrutinised in great detail.
However in the kind of febrile atmosphere created around the phone hacking scandal it would appear that anyone with even the slightest issue to be questioned about – such as acting as a ‘mail ‘box’ for a job application from a loose acquaintance’s daughter – suddenly becomes a reason to be referred to the IPCC. From the position of an outside observer looking in, this all appears to have got out of hand very quickly.
Whilst it is vital for Police Officers to uphold the highest possible levels of integrity, to damn senior police officers whose careers to date have been unblemished at such speed is deeply disturbing.
It almost appears that some old scores are being settled – the speed with which some senior police officers have been judged to be guilty is very concerning. Rights written into the Magna Carta in 1215 seem to have been forgotten as political leaders, fuelled by speculation in the media, have sought to place the label of wrongdoing on people without any detailed scrutiny of the evidence. It would appear people are not being treated as innocent until proven guilty – a point noted today by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. If that is the case it is a very sad day for the country.
If the next Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has to know everything about their organisation and all the potential links and sub-links that might come back to haunt them in some unforeseen way when another scandal arises, that will be a sad day. Anyone taking on that job would rapidly be driven to distraction just trying to keep their arms around the organisation. Forget any time for strategic thinking or leadership. The legacy of the events of the last few days for a future Commissioner just might make the job almost impossible.
Policing Today Security Correspondent, Dr Dave Sloggett