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London's first female police chief reports for duty

Cressida Dick is the first woman to lead London's Metropolitan Police Force in its near 200-year history. Top of her agenda will be the UK capital's fight against terrorism, but her career is not without controversy.

It was all change at the helm of London's famed Metropolitan Police on Monday as Cressida Dick reported for duty as the force's first-ever female commissioner.

The appointment marks a welcome new era for the Met, which has traditionally been regarded as an all-boys club. 

Dick's ascent was made all the more remarkable given that she began her policing career with as a low-rank officer in the early 1980s, having opted for a career change after completing a degree in Agriculture and Forestry at Oxford University. 

Read more: 10 women who made world history

Discussing that period in her career, Dick told the BBC: "There was so much open sexism back then. It was terrible. My strategy was to go about my job as well as I possibly could, and stand up to sexism whenever I could."

With an annual salary of £230,000 ($285,000), she is set to earn £40,000 less per year than her male predecessor. But the Met (also commonly referred to as Scotland Yard after the address of its old headquarters) said that Dick has requested the pay cut.

Großbritannien London Tobias Ellwood (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Rousseau)

London is carrying on, but the city is on high alert following last month's terror attack.

London: A terrorist target

Top of Dick's agenda will be protecting London from terror threats. The capital is still on high alert following last month's terror attack outside the UK Parliament in Westminster in which five people, including a policeman, were killed. 

Speaking ahead of her new role, Dick sought to assure London's residents that she would "work tirelessly to ensure that our city remains safe."

Following news of her appointment in February, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that Dick had "the exceptional qualities necessary to meet the challenges of leading the Metropolitan Police Service."

London mayor Sadiq Khan, meanwhile, has praised Dick's "distinguished career, her experience and ability." The mayor said her appointment as the Met's first female commissioner marked a "historic day for London and a proud day for me as mayor".

Operation 'Kratos'

However, it is precisely Dick's experience in handling terror operations that divides opinion over her appointment. In 2005, she spearheaded the Met's operation "Kratos" - an investigation and response unit following the deadly 7/7 jihadist bombings in London in 2005, in which 56 people were killed and some 700 injured.

A day after the attack, police mistook an innocent Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, for a terror suspect, shooting and killing him on a subway carriage on the London Underground network.

De Menezes' family has voiced "serious concerns" over Dick's appointment. "We had to face a tragedy that no family should ever have to experience; the tragic death of a loved one at the hands of those we entrusted to serve us and protect us," the family said in a statement.

London Charles de Menezes Polizeiopfer Trauer Gedenken (Reuters/S. Plunkett)

Almost 12 years after his death, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes continue to fight for justice.

An unwanted guest?

Next to the routine issues facing the Met police, Dick will also have to tackle a particularly unique problem later this year: How to handle the state visit of US President Donald Trump?

For almost any other US President, the itinerary for such a visit would be straightforward: Meet the Prime Minister, before riding in a carriage and enjoying dinner with the queen. Trump's visit will likely require a special protocol.

Some 2 million people have signed a petition calling for the visit to be cancelled. Although no date has been set for Trump's visit, police suspect there will be large-scale demonstrations on the streets of the capital.

dm/rt (dpa, Reuters)

Watch video 04:19

London terror attack – Q & A with Otso Iho, IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center

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