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Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who has been dogged by controversy, is set to quit his job, according to reports.
Sir Ian has faced criticism over his handling of a racism dispute with his most senior Asian officer and is also under investigation over police contracts awarded to an associate.
The top police officer - who is additionally under pressure from the Jean Charles de Menezes inquest - was reportedly in talks with Home Secretary Jacqui Smith earlier.
A six-month investigation was held by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over the shooting of Mr de Menezes at Stockwell Tube Station on July 22, 2005, when the innocent Brazilian was mistaken for a suicide bomber.
The IPCC's most damaging criticisms were reserved for Sir Ian Blair who was accused of causing "much of the avoidable difficulty" after the shooting. This referred to his decision to block IPCC investigators for three days.
Sir Ian - who defied his critics by refusing to resign and survived a vote of confidence several weeks later - is alleged to have used public money to pay a close friend, Andy Miller, a five-figure sum to improve his image.
When he was Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner, he allegedly awarded contracts to Impact Plus, a company owned by Mr Miller, to make over his communications strategy and leadership style.
According to reports, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, briefed members of the Metropolitan Police Authority about the so-called "vanity contract" payments - understood to be worth more than £15,000.
Sir Ian, who became the Met chief in February 2005, has previously rejected the suggestion he "behaved inappropriately" on the issue.
In a further controversy, Sir Ian effectively suspended Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur last month after the country's top Asian policeman held a press conference to outline his racial discrimination claims against the Metropolitan Police.
One of the favourites to succeed Sir Ian is the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Sir Hugh Orde.
However, Sir Hugh said: "I've only just been made aware that some statement is going to be made and, as I said at today's board meeting, my concern currently is to protect the community of Northern Ireland and to deal with the dissident republican threat and that is where 100 per cent of my energy currently is."
He added: "I have two years of my contract left here, I have no plans to move at the moment - wait and see I suspect is the best answer to this."
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SIR IAN BLAIR has resigned as Britain's most senior police officer after being forced out of office by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.
The Scotland Yard chief, who had been dogged by controversy during his three years in charge, said he could not continue in the job because Mr Johnson had lost faith in his leadership.
His sudden resignation threatens to further unsettle the Metropolitan Police, which is responsible for royal and diplomatic protection and counter-terrorism, at a time when it is already in a state of turmoil.
Sir Ian, 55, had been under siege on several fronts and arrangements for his departure had been in place for weeks, with speculation rife that he would be forced out following the inquest into the fatal shooting of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. However, yesterday it became clear that Mr Johnson was not prepared to wait.
Sir Ian said the Mayor "made it clear in a very pleasant but determined way" that it was time for a change of leadership. With the threat of a no-confidence vote by the London Assembly, his position was untenable.
The commissioner quit his £240,000 ($545,000) a year post in a televised address, leaving the force 18 months before his five-year contract was due to expire. He is the first Met chief to leave office early in more than 100 years. "Without the Mayor's backing, I cannot see how I can continue in the job," Sir Ian said. "I am resigning in the best interests of the people of London and the Metropolitan Police Service."
His departure came the day after Mr Johnson took charge of the Metropolitan Police Authority - the independent body that governs Sir Ian's force.
City Hall insiders admitted they had not expected his immediate resignation. It was widely expected that he would wait for the end of the three-month inquest into the shooting of Mr de Menezes, and that the Home Office would engineer an "honourable" exit if a verdict of unlawful killing was returned.
Sir Ian's departure will be seen as a scalp for the new Tory administration of London, but is likely to lead to increased tension between the Mayor and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, who wanted him to stay.
The commissioner leaves the force in a state of flux. A senior officer has begun a damaging racism claim, while Sir Ian is subject of an inquiry into how Scotland Yard contracts were awarded to his friend and skiing companion.
The force is preparing for the challenge of planning security for the Olympic Games in 2012. Andy Hayman, who was made to take early retirement by Sir Ian as head of anti-terrorism, accused his former boss of "loose leadership" and failing to "get a grip where it was needed".
Sir Ian - who is thought to have negotiated a severance package - tendered his resignation to the Home Secretary, whom he said had accepted it "reluctantly but graciously".
Mr Johnson praised Sir Ian for his "lasting and distinguished contribution to policing" but said the Met needed "new leadership and clarity of purpose".
Sir Ian will remain in office until December 1 while a successor is found but is likely to go on gardening leave. The Deputy Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stevenson, will stand in with John Yates, who led the cash for honours inquiry, his deputy.
SYDNEY MORNING NEWS
 
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