The Police Federation has warned the Home Secretary against bringing in outsiders to senior roles.
Theresa May told the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales conference that she wants to recruit people from the public and business sectors straight into senior policing roles.
At present senior officers are promoted from within the ranks.
Mrs May said while it would help improve the number of women and ethnic minorities in the top ranks it would also allow those with "broader experience and new perspective in fields like the wider public sector and business," to join the police.
Steve Williams, Chair-elect of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said:
“We believe it is a step too far for the Home Secretary to introduce people from outside of the service to the rank of a senior police officer.
"There is no substitute for experience within the operational policing arena where critical decisions are made 24/7. We already have highly competent officers with the necessary skills and abilities to fulfil the roles and I am yet to be convinced by any argument of what the benefit would actually be if this were to be introduced.
"The powers that be need to listen to the practitioners. If not, there could be dangerous consequences, not only for the public, but for the individual concerned as they will not have operational competence or the credibility with those whom they would be supervising and directing.”
Derek Barnett, President of the Superintendents’ Association told Theresa May that "officers feel under attack and unjustly criticised"
"It is time to send a clear message that the Government cares about policing – that it understands officer’s fears and concerns," he said.