Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) expressed his concerns after allegations arose suggesting News of the World journalists routinely paid detectives for information.
He admitted he was concerned for the reputation of the police service but insisted that in his experience corruption was not a widespread problem among officers.
Speaking on Radio 4â€™s Today Programme Sir Hugh said: â€œWe routinely accept when we get things wrong, that is one of the great strengths of British Policing.â€
But he added: â€œI am concerned there is a perception out there that corruption is endemic in policing. But in my 34-years experience that is not the case.â€
Sir Hugh also defended Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates, who this week resigned as Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police after links emerged with former News International executive, Neil Wallis.
Despite the pair insisting they had done nothing wrong, Sir Hugh said resigning had been the â€œhonourableâ€ thing to do.
He said: â€œI think they made personal judgments based on the overall good of the service that I know they both love and have given their professional lives to.
â€œWe should reflect on their total careers, and I think if one looks at what they have achieved they have been outstanding officers over time.â€
Sir Hugh added: â€œI think they took an honourable decision in the good of the service.â€
Asked if he thought their decision would damage the reputation of policing generally, Sir Hugh said: â€œI am not worried because this is another example of police officers standing up and being held to account for what they did.â€
Sir Hugh, who has emerged as one of the favourite candidates to replace the outgoing Commissioner said it was too early to discuss an appointment.
He said: â€œThere are lots of police officers capable of doing the job â€¦ I think the dust needs to settle before anyone makes a decision on the way forward.â€
Phone hacking: Corruption in police not endemic, Sir Hugh Orde insists