Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is to retire after five years leading the capital’s largest police force.
Sir Bernard was initially appointed to the role in September 2011 and earlier this year had his contract extended until September 2017.
The Commissioner had previously expressed hope that he would be able to stay beyond this date but on Thursday Scotland Yard announced he would now leave in February.
During his time as Commissioner Sir Bernard oversaw a sharp reduction in the number of stop and searches carried out, a move which helped improve the force’s relationship with London’s communities but which was blamed by some for an increase in knife and violent crime.
He’s also overseen the force’s work to protect London from terrorism and implemented an estate modernisation strategy which cut the number of buildings the Met uses and now sees officers visit victims and witnesses of crime in their own homes.
Announcing his departure, Sir Bernard said: “I am so proud of the remarkable men and women who serve Londoners as police officers and staff and make this such a safe place for people to live, work or visit.
“I want to thank all of them for what they do, and the risks they take each day to protect the public.
“I came into this job determined to fight crime and make the MPS the best, most professional police service. I wish my successor well as they take on this amazing responsibility.
“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.”
Former Mayor Boris Johnson, who was in post when Sir Bernard was appointed, said: “He took over after a troubled time for the Metropolitan Police and was highly effective in bringing crime down and lengthening London’s lead as one of the safest big cities on earth.”
During the campaign to succeed Mr Johnson, current Mayor Sadiq Khan repeatedly said Sir Bernard was “on probation” and at last week’s Mayor’s Question Time appeared to criticise him several times, including over the planned trialling of spit guards.
However today Mr Khan said: “I would like to thank Bernard for his years of service and dedication to keeping Londoners safe – I have enjoyed working closely together with him over the past five months.
“Bernard oversaw the excellent policing of the 2012 Olympic Games and has taken big steps towards making our police service more representative of London.
“I will work closely with the Home Secretary to ensure we find the best possible candidate to appoint as the new Commissioner, so that we can continue to keep Londoners safe.”
While the Mayor’s views must be taken into account, the decision on who will replace Sir Bernard will be taken by the Home Secretary who will recommend a final candidate to Her Majesty.
Commenting on today’s news, Steve O’Connell, Conservative Policing Spokesperson at City hall, said: “At the last Police and Crime Committee, the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime said that she had full confidence in Sir Bernard. What has changed in less than a week?
“It has been clear for some time that Sadiq Khan would push out Sir Bernard, not because he has a better option lined up or because Sir Bernard had failed at his job, but because Khan believes that doing so would make him look strong.
“This is the latest mistake by a PR-focused administration that will do nothing to improve the safety of Londoners. It is also yet another example of Sadiq Khan interfering in operational policing.”
Labour’s leader on the London Assembly, Len Duvall AM, said: “I want to thank Sir Hogan Howe for the dedication he has shown to keeping our capital safe.
“The last five years have seen some significant policing challenges for London, not least because of budgetary cuts which have undermined frontline policing.
“Sir Bernard Hogan Howe has no doubt been faced with tough operational decisions, and we have of course questioned those at times, but his commitment to protecting Londoners has never been under question.
“We wish him a very happy retirement.”
UKIPs’ Peter Whittle AM, who sits on the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, said: “Whilst Sir Bernard has not exactly covered himself with glory he has nonetheless been a steadfast public servant and I wish him well in his retirement.
“I now look to the Home Secretary to appoint a suitable successor to carry out the important task of keeping Londoners safe and I look forward to scrutinising them, whoever they may be, as part of my role as UKIP Leader in the London Assembly.”