Outgoing Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie has insisted she is leaving the PSNI on her terms and not as a consequence of a disputed job criteria preventing her from applying for the organisation's top post.
Mrs Gillespie, the service's highest-ranking female officer, leaves at the end of the month after 32 years in policing.
The announcement of her retirement came shortly before a political row erupted over how the PSNI's next Chief Constable is hired when incumbent Matt Baggott retires in the autumn.
Stormont Justice Minister David Ford's proposal that a mandatory requirement for the next chief to have served two years outside Northern Ireland be scrapped was met with fierce opposition and was overruled by the power-sharing Executive.
Mrs Gillespie, like many senior-ranking officers in the PSNI, would be unable to apply for the top job while the criteria remains. On her last major public engagement in the post, at the UK's Senior Women in Policing conference in Belfast, the Deputy Chief Constable said she decided to go in the knowledge that a consultation on changing the rule was on-going.
"I said at the time that I knew there was a consultation process under way," she said. "And I decided to retire on my terms and in my time."
Mrs Gillespie said she was considering offers for a new career.
"I am not going to be idle," she said.
"Policing is always very close to my heart, and women in policing especially and the vulnerable victims. So I don't think I will be too far away from that sector."
Mrs Gillespie said she was proud of the role she had played in delivering last year's World Police and Fire Games in Northern Ireland, the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh, the UK City of Culture events in Londonderry and the All-Ireland Fleadh, also in Derry. "It would be very hard to top those milestones in my career," she said.
Judith Gillespie has been the Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI since June 2009. She joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1982 and became the first female Chief Officer (Assistant Chief Constable) in the history of Northern Ireland policing in May 2004. A native of north Belfast, her academic successes include a BA Honours in public policy and administration and a Masters in applied criminology from Cambridge University. She is a graduate of the FBI's National Executive Institute. She was appointed Acting Chief Constable in August 2009 until Matt Baggott's appointment in September 2009.