The most senior gay police officer in the UK is to retire more than a year early.

Brian Paddick, who is currently a Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police, is understood to have asked to be allowed to stand down before the end of his current contract.

He is to leave the force at the end of May. He has completed 30 years’ service and will be entitled to a full pension.

It is reported that he is going to write a book about his colourful and controversial career at the Met.

Mr Paddick came to public prominence as borough commander of Lambeth, when his policy of targeting resources at class A drug dealers and taking a more relaxed approach to cannabis use caused right-wing outrage.

The policy was popular with locals, and his direct style of policing helped to foster a trust and respect with many who viewed the police with suspicion.

In 2002 a tabloid newspaper printed allegations from a former boyfriend that Mr Paddick had allowed cannabis to be smoked in his home.

No charges were ever brought against him and he was promoted.

Recently Mr Paddick has clashed with his boss, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, over when the Met knew that they had shot an innocent man at Stockwell tube station on July 22nd 2005.

Sir Ian insists that he did not know Brazilian Jean Charles De Menezes was not a suicide bomber until the next day.

Mr Paddick gave evidence to an independent investigation that suspicions were raised almost immediately.

That inquiry is due to report later this year.

In June 2006 Mr Paddick was moved sideways by Sir Ian, and his career at the Met was not expected to develop beyond his current grade.

For all the controversy, Mr Paddick will be remembered for inspiring many other police men and women to be open about their sexuality.

Bob Hodgson, the chairman of the Met’s advisory group on lesbian, gay and transgender issues, paid tribute to Mr Paddick.

“When he joined there were very few officers who were out, and the attitude from the Met culture to lesbian and gay officers was very much more hostile than it is now,” he told The Guardian.

“A lot of that change is due to Brian being a trailblazer from within the organisation. Seeing someone like Brian in the higher echelons gave lesbian and gay Londoners confidence that the Met was changing to some extent.”

Last year Mr Paddick refused to rule out standing as a candidate for Mayor of London. It is also thought he has been approached about TV and lecturing work after he leaves the Met.