One of Britain's most senior policemen has dismissed David Cameron's suggestion that foreign police chiefs could be brought in to turn around UK forces as "simply stupid".
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), has written to the Prime Minister asking him for a meeting to discuss his comments in the House of Commons last week.
Mr Cameron suggested the phone hacking crisis called for "radical" changes to British policing to open up forces and bring in "fresh leadership". He told MPs: "At the moment, the police system is too closed. There is only one point of entry into the force. There are too few, and arguably too similar, candidates for the top jobs.
"Why should all police officers have to start at the same level? Why should not someone with a different skill set be able to join the police force in a senior rank? Why should not someone who has been a proven success overseas be able to help us to turn around a force here at home?"
Sir Hugh, who is considered a frontrunner to become the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner after Sir Paul Stephenson resigned over the phone hacking scandal, said he was "slightly surprised" by the Prime Minister's comments.
He said it was "potty" to suggest that Britain's police forces were a "closed shop" and warned of the dangers of direct entry to senior positions from outside policing. "When it gets to sworn officers, frankly as a Chief Constable the last thing I need is someone from another profession on work experience," he told reporters at a briefing at Acpo headquarters in London.
"The decisions I have to make are potentially life and death. That's an absolutely clear statement - it's absolutely true. If we get it wrong, the public expect us to be held to account on the basis of making judgments based on experience and professional knowledge rather than 'This might be a bit of fun for a couple of years'."
Sir Hugh said he had many friends in overseas police forces, in particular in America, but questioned the sense of parachuting foreign police chiefs into Britain. "The notion that you can ship someone in from another country to run a police force in a different environment and a different culture is simply stupid," he said.
He added: "I have written to the Prime Minister inviting him to come and meet the leaders of the service because some were equally concerned. I look forward to having that conversation hopefully in the fairly near future."
A Downing Street spokesman stressed Mr Cameron was highlighting some of the issues being examined by Tom Winsor's ongoing review of police pay and conditions. He said: "We don't want to comment on a review that hasn't come out yet. The Prime Minister was putting it in context - he was saying 'These are the questions which will be asked in the review'."