Key contender withdraws from MPS leadership contest

No female candidates are likely to be under consideration for the role of commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) after one of the leading contenders announced she would not be applying.

May 4, 2022
By Tony Thompson
Dame Lynne Owens

Dame Lynne Owens, previously director of the National Crime Agency (NCA) before standing down last year to focus on her treatment for breast cancer, announced her decision on social media last night (May 3).

Posting on Twitter, Ms Owens wrote: “The deadline for @metpoliceuk commissioner applications is tomorrow. To prevent speculation & in the interests of transparency I’m not applying.

“I’m so grateful for the support I’ve had as I’ve worked through my decision. I do not intend to talk about my rationale other than to say it is not health related & I am actively looking for my next career challenge! I wish candidates every success – policing will always hold my heart.”

Prior to her announcement, Ms Owens, who joined the NCA after serving as chief constable of Surrey Police, was said to be under strong consideration for the role and the preferred candidate of Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The £290,000 role became vacant following the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick who left the force last month after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, made it clear he no longer had confidence in her leadership.

The next commissioner will be appointed by Ms Patel, who by law has to take account of the views of Mr Khan, who is also the police and crime commissioner for London.

Following a series of scandals by serving officers including the murder of Sarah Everard, the photographing of murder victims and exchanges of homophobic and misogynistic language at Charing Cross police station, both government and City Hall believe the force needs radical reform to boost falling public confidence.

Across the country, nearly one third of chief constables are currently female, a proportion that has risen substantially from less than 10 per cent in 2019. However, two other women that might have been in the running for the role are also understood to have ruled themselves out.

According to The Guardian, Olivia Pinkney, chief constable of Hampshire Constabulary, has made it clear she will not be applying while Lucy D’Orsi, who took over as chief constable of British Transport Police in February 2021, is still settling into her new role.

With one-time favourite Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu also potentially out of the running due to having been too vocal on issues of race in the past, this leaves an all-male, all white field of contenders with Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, a former chief constable of Surrey Police, Shaun Sawyer, who recently announced his retirement as chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police and Mark Rowley, a former assistant commissioner with the MPS, among the names expected to apply.

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