The naming of a civilian lawyer as the Government's choice for the next chief inspector of constabulary means urgent clarification is needed on how the police service will work in the future, a senior police chief said.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said Tom Winsor was the wrong man for chief constables to turn to for advice on difficult operational decisions such as terrorism.
The new model of policing puts the chief inspector of constabulary in a more regulatory role, Sir Hugh said.
His comments come after Home Secretary Theresa May's decision to make Mr Winsor the Government's preferred candidate for the £200,000-a-year role upset many rank-and-file officers.
"It is a historic moment in that it is the first time that a non-sworn officer has been appointed to that role in the history of policing in this country," Sir Hugh told the Policing 2012 conference in Westminster, central London. "It is without question a step-change in terms of the direction of travel of that part of the Government structure."
He said that whenever he faced a difficult or challenging operational issue as chief constable in Northern Ireland, such as around terrorism, the inspectorate would be one of his first ports of call for advice.
"In the new model, those are not the sort of issues I'd expect to ring Tom and his people about, because simply he's the wrong person," Sir Hugh said.
"We need to reorganise. We are going to seek clarity on how the new landscape looks as a consequence of that decision. We need to have clarity on how the service operates in the new world.
"My sense is it (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary) is moving towards a more regulatory approach, rather than that role where it crossed both bridges, where it did inspection but also it did some other things. We do need clarity very quickly on how that works."
The conference also heard the retiring Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O'Connor would remain in place during the Olympics to ensure his expertise was available.