LONDON Britain's most senior police officer Bernard Hogan-Howe, who oversaw policing at the 2012 Olympic Games and London's efforts to tackle extremism, will retire in 2017 after five years, the Metropolitan police said on Thursday.
Hogan-Howe, who was appointed London Metropolitan Police (MPS) Commissioner in Sept. 2011, said he would step down in February, earlier than was expected, to give time for Britain's Home Secretary (interior minister) and London Mayor Sadiq Khan time to select a replacement.
"I came into this job determined to fight crime and make the MPS the best, most professional police service," he said in a statement. "I wish my successor well as they take on this amazing responsibility."
Hogan-Howe had only been granted a one-year extension in February to his original five-year contract.
But the former conservative Mayor Boris Johnson and Theresa May, then home secretary and now the prime minister, decided not to extend it by three years as he wanted in order to await the result of this year's mayoral elections.
There had been media speculation that his relationship with Khan was tense and that the new major would remove him from the job.
"I would like to thank Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe for his years of service and dedication to keeping Londoners safe," Khan said in a statement.
With a reputation for a no-nonsense approach, Hogan-Howe took over at a difficult time for the London force, by far Britain's biggest with some 32,000 officers, a year ahead of the Olympics and a month after the worst riots in the city in years.
His predecessor Paul Stephenson had resigned after just two years over a phone-hacking scandal that embroiled the British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire.
The MPS said crime had fallen in London by 18 percent during Hogan-Howe's time in the job and public confidence had risen.
But, he too has faced increasing criticism from politicians and the media, particularly over the force's handling of historical sex abuse claims made against high-profile figures.
He had to personally apologise to the wife of the late Leon Brittan, a former Home Secretary in the government of Margaret Thatcher, for failing to tell her sooner her husband would not have faced prosecution over a historical rape allegation.
(Additional reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)