Sir Hugh Orde has said that he "didn't want" the top job at the Metropolitan Police, despite applying for the post on two occasions.
The current president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), Sir Hugh lost out in the race to become commissioner of the Met Sir Paul Stephenson in 2009, and again to the current chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in 2011.
But speaking about being overlooked for the post in 2009, Sir Hugh told LBC radio: "I didn't want the job anyway, I had a fantastic job at the time. I would have loved to have been commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; I served for 26 years in London before I went to Northern Ireland."
"It was a competition and I came second."
Sir Hugh, who was the then chief constable of the Northern Ireland police force, added that he thought Sir Paul was "very competent and professional".
The job of running Britain's largest force is decided on by the Mayor of London and his deputy.
Sir Hugh also said that he thought the principle of positive discrimination in recruiting officers to the Met needed "serious debate".
While serving in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Sir Hugh oversaw a policy of hiring one Catholic officer for every Protestant recruited by the force. Sir Hugh said he supported current commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in thinking about adopting a "one for one" hiring with Black and Asian officers in the Met.
"Trust in the police is a function of the structure of a force. Whilst it's challenging and I'm not sure how you would do it in a London context, I do think it's something certainly worth a serious debate," he told presenters Ken Livingstone and former Tory MP, David Mellor.
Sir Hugh described Acpo's relationship with the current government as "robust" and added that the police structure in England and Wales was in need of reform.
Sir Hugh said: "We are dealing with a structure from the last century to deliver on policing against 21st century threats, as rightly identified by this government as cyber crime and international terrorism. My sense is there is no huge political ambition to change."
Sir Hugh became head of Acpo in 2009, having served as a vice president since 2006.