Police Chief Paul E. Johnson has officially declared his intention to retire from Harvard's top police post, Vice President and General Counsel Margaret H. Marshall said in an interview this week.
Johnson, 65, may leave the force as early as May of this year, but will stay on until a successor is found, according to Marshall, who is the police chief's immediate superior.
The chief is on vacation until next week and could not be reached for comment.
The end of Johnson's 12-year tenure comes as no surprise to most observers in the department; most police and security guards interviewed yesterday said they had suspected he would leave by the end of the academic year.
Marshall refused to say when Johnson told her of his plans to retire.
It is likely, however, that the chief formally approached her sometime in the past month.
Provost Albert Carnesale, who was then serving as acting president, said in late January that Johnson had not formally articulated any retirement plans.
The search for Johnson's successor is underway. A committee has already initiated what Marshall indicated would be a nationwide search.
Still, the position has not been advertised in the Harvard Gazette, and no formal announcement of Johnson's retirement has been made, Marshall said.
The general counsel refused to comment on any specific candidates for the post, including Harvard Lt. Lawrence J. Murphy and Lt. John F. Rooney, both of whom are rumored to be in active pursuit of the job.
"I think we have some superb members of the police department, but I will not comment on any candidates," she said.
Johnson has been involved in police work for almost four decades.
Before coming to Harvard, Johnson served as a deputy superintendent in Boston's Police Force.
In 1983, Johnson applied for the top post in Harvard's police force and made an instant impression.