Sir Hugh Orde says corrupt police should be locked up
He said the UK had one of the least corrupt police services but that it was not complacent.
Sir Hugh is among those being tipped as the next Met Police commissioner.
Last week Sir Paul Stephenson resigned as Commissioner of the Met after it emerged that former News of the World (NoW) executive editor Neil Wallis had been employed by Scotland Yard as a public relations consultant.
The Met has now advertised for his replacement.
Later Sir Hugh was asked if he would be applying for the job and he said: "I haven't finally made up my mind whether to put my hat in the ring, but I note that the mayor (Boris Johnson) is on record as saying that he is ideally looking for a woman to do the job… and that is something that anyone interested in the job has to think about before they decide whether to go for it."
Every police officer patrolling the streets this morning expects that any corrupt officer that lets the side down, that does huge damage to policing, should be locked up and the key thrown away”
Meanwhile it has emerged that Surrey Police have removed an officer from the inquiry into Milly Dowler's murder after claims information was leaked to the NoW.
Earlier this week Assistant Commissioner John Yates resigned from the Met after questions were raised about his role in failing to reinvestigate phone hacking and his friendship with Mr Wallis.
Mr Yates's job as Scotland Yard's lead officer on counter-terrorism was given to Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick.
Sir Hugh, a former Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, told the BBC the Met had "huge strength" and that there were "some outstanding leaders" who had taken the helm.
Sir Hugh said he had a "zero tolerance" policy towards corrupt police officers and civilians working for the police.
But he said it needed to be put in context: "The chief officer of the police service of this country, Sir Paul Stephenson, said 'This happened on my watch, I am responsible, I am resigning.' Compare that with Rupert Murdoch - complete denial of any responsibility of his organisation."
James Landale asked whether it was necessary for police officers to go to jail to prove to the public that corruption was not endemic in the police.
Sir Hugh said: "Every police officer patrolling the streets this morning expects that any corrupt officer that lets the side down, that does huge damage to policing, should be locked up and the key thrown away."
He was also asked about cutbacks to the police and whether the 44 forces in England and Wales could be more efficient.
Sir Hugh said: "We are doing our level best to be as efficient as we can be. Her Majesty's Inspector (of Constabulary) released a report only this week that despite 20% cuts we have maintained frontline service delivery by doing things in different ways.
"My personal view is that we do need to look more widely at policing through some sort of commission because we are currently delivering against 21st Century threats with a 20th Century model. Forty-four forces is simply too many."