Bob Quick: Outburst out of character for a soul of discretion

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Until this week, the only manner in which Bob Quick lived up to his surname was his ascent to the highest echelons of policing and his ability to avoid the limelight, despite his involvement in high-profile anti-corruption cases and racially-motivated murder inquiries.

Indeed, the assistant commissioner had built up a reputation as a level-headed and thorough practitioner of the crime-fighter's art – always calm, methodical and competent, while avoiding the temptation to make knee-jerk decisions.

One colleague said: "When all around are beginning to get a bit frayed at the edges, it is Bob who will be holding it together. He's genuinely decent and has complete integrity. He's also pretty relaxed."

Mr Quick's renowned patience in his police work makes the events of the past 48 hours all the more extraordinary. Sources said he would not lose his job but his outburst against the Conservatives – described by one colleague as "a moment of madness" – will have damaged his stock.

An Exeter and Cambridge universities graduate, Mr Quick joined the Met in 1978 and moved quickly through the ranks. He led the Yard's anti-corruption unit – a role reserved for officers whose reputations are whiter than white.

He moved to Surrey in 2003, becoming head of the force in 2004 and showing acumen in the modernisation of police work. He used his ability to think outside the box in his counter-terrorism work, pioneering a programme to form closer ties with Muslim communities.

But as the head of the special operations directorate since February, in charge of countering the terrorist threat to London, he has been accused of failing to recognise the political implications of his work. He was called Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's "favourite copper" after offering his support to plans to increase the detention limit for terrorist suspects to 42 days.