“I would of course have loved to have continued working with all the police’s fantastic personnel,” Eliasson said in a statement announcing his decision on Wednesday. “But I think it will be a lot of fun to lead a new agency with a crucial role for society.”
A civil servant rather than a career policeman, Eliasson has faced frequent criticism from Sweden's right-wing opposition ever since he was appointed National Police Commissioner in November 2014.
Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the populist Sweden Democrats, has waged a long campaign for Eliasson's dismissal, calling him “a catastrophe for the police corps”.
“It is of course extremely positive for the police that Dan Eliasson is stepping down as National Commissioner,” he said.
Annie Lööf, leader of the Centre Party, also welcomed the move, calling it “an important step towards bringing a calm work environment to the organisation”.
A Sifo poll carried out in December 2016, the most recent national poll on confidence in the police, found that only 11 percent of respondents had any confidence in his leadership, compared to 50 percent who said they had “little” or “very little” confidence.
In a press conference after the announcement, Morgan Johansson, Sweden's justice minister, denied that Eliasson had effectively been sacked.
“We judged that when the reorganisation of the police was complete and was starting to bring results, that brought the police into a new phase,” he said. “Therefore, we felt that this was the right time for a change.”
As Eliasson was appointed, the police was reorganized from 21 local divisions to seven regional ones coordinated under a single national organization.
“They've been some tough years, but now the reorganization now completed,” Eliasson said in his statement. “a reevaluation of police wages has also been begun.”
Eliasson takes over as head of the Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) as it works to rebuild Sweden's Cold War system of Civil Defence, which sees civilian agencies work together to protect Sweden in the event of war. He will take over the post on March 5th.
Eliasson has previously headed Sweden's Säpo security service, the Swedish Migration Agency, and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.
“He's going to do a good job,” Johansson said. “This is one of our most experienced agency heads.”