South Yorkshire-born Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has been praised for his “remarkable and consistent dedication to public service” after announcing that he is to retire as Britain’s most senior police officer.
The dramatic announcement of his departure after five years as head of Scotland Yard came in the wake of suggestions of tensions with new London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
However, Sir Bernard denied he is stepping down because of fears that Mr Khan would not reappoint him, and insisted the decision was not connected to a forthcoming report on the Metropolitan Police’s handling of historical abuse allegations.
The 58-year-old, who was appointed Met Commissioner in 2011, had been expected to remain in the role until at least September next year.
Theresa May, who was then home secretary, announced in February that she had recommended a 12-month extension to his five-year contract, which had been due to expire this month.
Legislation allows for an initial extension of up to three years. This can then be followed by unlimited one-year extensions.
However, in an unexpected development, the force announced that Sir Bernard was to retire – remaining in the post until February 2017 to allow the Home Secretary and Mayor to appoint a successor.
Sir Bernard said: “It has been a great privilege to be the Met’s Commissioner. I have loved my time in the role and I have loved being a police officer. It’s the most rewarding of jobs to protect good people and lock up the bad guys.”
In an interview, he insisted he had an “excellent” relationship with Mr Khan, and denied that he had chosen to leave early rather than face not being reappointed.
In the latter part of Sir Bernard’s tenure, the Met was engulfed in a storm of controversy over Operation Midland, its doomed investigation into VIP paedophile claims which closed in March without a single arrest.
Mr Khan insisted he had nothing to do with Sir Bernard’s decision to retire and said he did not want him to go.
“It’s to do with Bernard’s decision to retire,” he said. “I didn’t want him to go, we worked incredibly well together. But I am grateful he gave me and the Home Secretary sufficient notice.”
In the past Mr Khan has suggested he has doubts over Sir Bernard’s decision-making and hinted that he would want to pick his own commissioner.
In the most recent disagreement between the pair, Mr Khan said he was disappointed not to have been consulted on plans – which were later scrapped – for the Met to start using “spit hoods” to restrain suspects.
In a statement, the Mayor thanked Sir Bernard “for his years of service”, saying he “oversaw the excellent policing of the 2012 Olympic Games and has taken big steps towards making our police service more representative of London”.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd thanked Sir Bernard “for the leadership he has shown as Commissioner, and his work to keep the communities of London safe and the United Kingdom secure against the backdrop of a heightened terror threat”.
She added: “Sir Bernard has had a long and distinguished career as a determined crimefighter and an inspirational senior officer. He has shown remarkable and consistent dedication to public service. Among his many achievements in London was the delivery of a safe and successful 2012 Olympics.”