By Sharanya Gopinathan
Cressida Dick has become the first woman to be appointed the commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Britain’s oldest and largest police force, which has been in existence for over 188 years. Dick will head Scotland Yard, which has over 43,000 officers, and be in charge of it’s £3 billion budget over a five year contract.
India, on the other hand, seems largely unconcerned with having women appropriately represented in the police force, let alone having them lead it. Not only do male officers and the police force as an institution make it notoriously difficult for the few female police officers it has, but in several instances female officers are hard to find in the first place. The Ladies Finger reported in November 2016 that one police department in Tamil Nadu has had no women since 1964. In fact, when ten women were promoted and assigned to the Civil Supplies department, the Civil Supplies DGP sent them back to their original departments because working in Civil Supplies involves “travelling across Tamil Nadu and not 9 to 5 hours.” Never to be outdone, Karnataka’s female police officers make up only 6.14 percent of the police force.
By the way, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that Dick, who attended both Oxford and Cambridge universities and is the child of Oxford alumni, has “an understanding of the diverse range of communities [Scotland Yard] serves”. I’m not sure entirely sure why he says this. Like we discussed last year, there’s no real reason to just expect female police officers to act like Florence Nightingales in khaki. It’s important not to forget that Dick’s appointment saw opposition from members of the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian man who was shot by police officers who mistook him for a suicide bomber a day after the July 7th London bombings in an operation Dick commanded. At a time when the global spotlight is on police brutality and impunity, particularly through movements like Black Lives Matter, voices like those of de Menezes’ family shouldn’t be ignored lightly.