Sir Hugh Orde started as a constable on the streets of London but made his name directing a fresh start for policing in Northern Ireland.
The 50-year-old became president of the Association of Chief Police Officers after seven years in charge of the fledgling Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
He took charge of the PSNI in a period of unprecedented change for law enforcement in the region, as policing was fundamentally restructured under the terms of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
The senior officer has been credited with navigating the organisation through a difficult phase, but leaves in the wake of a murder of an officer and two British soldiers by dissident republicans.
Three people have been charged in connection with the killing of Stephen Carroll (48) in Craigavon and one with the murders of Sappers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21) outside an Army barracks in Antrim.
Sir Hugh’s tenure was also marked by a failure to solve several high-profile crimes, including the Omagh bombing, the £26m Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney.
His personal life was not without controversy either, as revelations about an extra-marital affair with Denise Weston, an officer he knew from his days at the Met, caused him deep embarrassment.
He was appointed Chief Constable in 2002 and from the outset earned a reputation as a straight talker who never shied away from contentious issues.
Former assistant chief constable Peter Sheridan remembers him as a man not afraid to fight his corner.
“If he believed in something he would have fought on that basis,” he said.
“He had to walk that aisle between a cop with a good operational sense and also one who had the ability to deal with the politics. He walked that aisle and that’s a difficult aisle to walk in Northern Ireland.”
Originally from Haslemere in Surrey, he joined the Met in 1977 and rapidly rose through the ranks with spells in Brixton, Greenwich and Hounslow.
A keen historian, he went to Northern Ireland with experience of the patch, having led a 1999 Met inquiry into claims of RUC collusion with loyalist paramilitaries.
Sir Hugh, an avid Bruce Springsteen fan, was a regular at concerts and charity functions in Belfast, gaining a reputation for his dry wit and self-deprecating anecdotes.