In Conversation With Dame Cressida Dick | Epsom College
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In Conversation With Dame Cressida Dick

The former chief of the Metropolitan Police visited Epsom as part of our Inspirational Women series of talks

Throughout the academic year, Sir Anthony is hosting a series of talks with leading figures from the worlds of art, culture, politics and public life. The latest event took place this week in front of a sell-out audience at the Mermaid Lecture Theatre. Here, Mr Nick Russell, Assistant Head: Senior School, reviews Sir Anthony In Conversation With… Dame Cressida Dick.


For most of the last decade, Cressida Dick was one of the most powerful women in the United Kingdom. As Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, from 2017-2022, she was essentially the Head of the Police Force in London. She had a staff of some 45,000 and was responsible for the safety of nearly 9 million people, at a time when the threats were various, serious and multiplying. Prior to that, she was responsible for security operations for the 2012 London Olympics – an event universally hailed as a resounding success.

How, one might wonder, would a person invested with such enormous power conduct themselves?

In her conversation with Sir Anthony, we discovered the answer. Dame Cressida Dick won over a packed audience with her candour, intelligence and, above all, her humility. “Please, everyone, just call me Cress.”

For a fascinating hour, Dame Cressida spoke honestly, openly and simply about the challenges, tragedies and triumphs of a remarkable career – one characterised by service and a simple sense of duty. A desire to “protect the weak from the strong”.

Despite her immense power and status, Dame Cressida was not remotely arrogant or self-regarding. Instead, she made it clear that leadership is all about service and teamwork – not ego or self-promotion. Her approach is pragmatic and grounded: “there is an immensely difficult task ahead of us; we will all need to be at our best and to work together to get it done. Let’s get on with it.”

One of her opening remarks was instructive. As a teenager, she read a biography of Martin Luther King that left her with a sense of anger at social injustice but also an awareness that every human being has weaknesses and flaws. Consequently, she calmly expressed the importance of being aware of nuance and complexity. She is saddened by the modern drift towards a more polarised and judgemental society.

While acknowleding that the Police did not always “get it right” she spoke movingly about the essential principles and aims of the UK Police since 1829: to be an impartial force, made up of ordinary people, who would work with the people, to keep the people safe.

She was rightly proud of the role the police had played in helping Britain transition – essentially peacefully – to become a full democracy. And she was inspired by the desire of the overwhelming majority of her team to serve the people fairly and with dignity.

The Police are often portrayed in an unflattering manner in the media and in TV dramas. Over the course of one hour, Dame Cressida Dick spoke the simple truth and, in so doing, overturned many misconceptions and misunderstandings.

“Do consider coming to join us,” she said. “We are a good team. And our country needs a good Police.”

Do not be surprised, Dame Cressida, if many in the audience answer your call.