The North's police chief Hugh Orde was announced as the new president of Britain's Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) today.
He beat British Transport Police chief constable Ian Johnston and Cambridgeshire police chief Julie Spence in a ballot of senior officers across Britain.
Ken Jones, outgoing Acpo president, said: “Sir Hugh brings a wealth of experience and leadership to Acpo at what is likely to be a very difficult and challenging time for the service.”
Acpo is a strategic body responsible for directing policing across Britain.
Earlier this year Orde lost out to Paul Stephenson in the race to succeed Ian Blair as London's Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
The 50-year-old, from Haslemere, Surrey, has been responsible for policing in the North for the past seven years.
He has been credited with steering the organisation through a turbulent phase after it was established in 2001 to replace the old Royal Ulster Constabulary.
But he will leave the force struggling with resurgent dissident republican violence that saw one of his officers and two British soldiers murdered last month.
Orde joined the PSNI in 2002 and under an arrangement agreed with the Northern Ireland Policing Board he will not leave until at least September, allowing time to find a replacement.
Democratic Unionist Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr paid tribute to Orde's contribution to policing in the North.
Mr Paisley said Orde had proven himself to be a police officer of international standing and said he had successfully tackled one of policing’s most difficult jobs in the North.
“I think he led from the front and he confounded the sceptics and the critics because he has been a very highly regarded police officer locally,” he said.
Mr Paisley said Orde was a staunch defender of his rank and file officers and was focused on delivering a top class service to the public.
He congratulated him on the new appointment and said the board faced a tough task in finding a replacement between now and September.
Giving his reaction at police headquarters in Belfast, Orde said while he was looking forward to the new challenge at Acpo he had mixed feelings about leaving the PSNI.
“I’ve been here for nearly seven years and I said I’d come for five,” he said.
“There’s never a good time to go and frankly I’ve got mixed emotions about going. This is a great organisation to lead and it’s done outstandingly well, but I think the time has come for fresh eyes to look at things differently and will say we need to move in a slightly different direction.
“I think that’s a good place to be.”
Orde said he did not expect to take up his new role before September. He reassured colleagues that he would not leave before a successor had been identified.
Orde said he had no specific regrets about how he did the job in the North.
“It’s been a rough and challenging ride, that’s what you would expect at this end at this level of policing. But I think overall as you step back and look at what’s been achieved by this organisation, it’s created the conditions that have allowed the politics to move on.”
He said it was for others to judge his legacy in the PSNI. “I would like to think people have seen a drive towards community policing, a relentless implementation of the Patten recommendations which was the blueprint, I think, for the successes that have been here.
“And I also think the reflection should really be on the frontline of policing rather than the leadership of policing, because I have been very clear on that. The way my officers on the frontline, my staff on the frontline, have delivered has been the reason that we are now in a far more peaceful situation than we were seven years ago.”