For once, it’s not about Bond — James Bond — but rather, M. Or, Scotland Yard’s version of M16’s fabled tough female chief. Cressida Dick is the first woman to head Britain’s 187-year-old investigative agency Scotland Yard. And, like M, she’s no wallflower. Dick has headed Britain’s national police counter-terrorism operations, murder squad, gun team and child abuse inquiries. She’s had vital breakthroughs; her dogged re-investigation of the Stephen Lawrence racial hate crime, which roiled Britain in 1993, finally secured convictions for two of his assailants 20 years later.
Dick’s journey to the top of the investigative tree has been far from smooth. Scotland Yard has been the centre of several legends; in popular perception, the 19th century onwards, it’s been the home of bumbling inspectors, trumped by sharper “private eyes”, including the iconic Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot. These worlds — of cops, robbers, detectives and crimes — have been famously male ones, where the voices of women were reduced to frightened shrieks in a fog, their ideas patronisingly patted away as Poirot petted, “pauvre petite fille”, “poor little girl”. Later into the 20th century, Scotland Yard became famous for racism too, an almost entirely white British police frequently accused of racist attacks. In 2005, in a nervous London reeling from deadly bombings, Dick herself faced a scandal when, under her charge, a Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes, was killed by forearms officers mistakenly suspecting him of terrorism.
In today’s more fraught world, where many consider it legitimate to look at the vulnerable, the different, with hate, Dick’s work is cut out for her. She will need to balance urban security with urbane empathy and modernise a traditional police force, while keeping its spirit of rigour and vigour alive. Sit down, Bond. This is a job for the boss.