Police officers should be banned from becoming elected police chiefs in the area which they serve, MPs have warned.
Plans to create new directly-elected police chiefs to oversee constabularies could lead to officers turning private disputes with colleagues into public vendettas, MPs said.
The warning was issued by the influential Commons Home Affairs Committee, which includes MPs Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak), David Winnick (Lab Walsall North) and Aidan Burley (Con Cannock Chase).
Forces such as West Midlands Police are to be overseen by directly elected commissioners under plans drawn up by the coalition Government, which says the reform will make them more responsive to public concerns.
Labour MPs say the proposal risks politicising the police service and will cost money at a time when forces already face significant cuts.
But the committee’s report, following in inquiry, looked at how police commissioners should operate if they went ahead.
It called for a cooling-off period of four years if a former senior police officer decides to stand as a police commissioner in the same area in which they have served.
The restriction should apply to chief constables, deputy chief constables, assistant chief constables and equivalent ranks, the committee said.
Mr McCabe said: “There could be a conflict of interest. For example, if someone is disciplined or required to resign due to the way they performed their function, they would be able to make it an election issue.”
MPs also said there was a need to define exactly what the powers of the commissioner would be.
The Government proposes to introduce directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners at the level of every area-based police force in England and Wales, with the exception of the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police. They would replace Police Authorities, which would be abolished.
Police and Crime Commissioners will be responsible for holding chief constables to account and the first elections are scheduled for May 2012.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said: “Directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners could give the public more opportunities to influence the way in which their local area is policed. But this is not inevitable.
“In abolishing Police Authorities and introducing directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners, the Government is placing a huge responsibility on these individuals. They will have a high volume of work and large geographical areas to cover.
"They will need effective teams of support staff, and the advice of strong Police and Crime Panels if they are to do their jobs well.”