A Midland chief constable has taken the unusual step of publicly attacking the Government by condemning plans for a West Midlands super-force on national television.
Paul West, chief constable of West Mercia Police, said he would continue campaigning to save his own force, which was named the best in the country by official inspectors last year.
A consultation on plans to merge West Midlands Police, West Mercia Police, Stafford-shire Police and Warwickshire Police is to continue until July 2.
Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary who was sacked last week, was over-seeing plans to create a new force covering the entire West Midlands region.
Last night the Home Office said there would be no change to the timetable following Mr Clarke's replacement by John Reid.
Appearing on the BBC News 24 programme HARD-Talk, Mr West said he backed an enhanced strategic police service for the existing West Mercia force area.
He added: "We live in a democracy and we deserve to have an informed debate. I am simply expressing a clear professional view that is supported by the public and our partner organisations.
"The Government's current proposals represent the single biggest structural and constitutional change to policing in England and Wales in four decades.
"It is a key moment. We are being told that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape policing for the next 50 years and yet our thinking has been artificially constrained by the imposition of rigid, unfair criteria and wholly unreasonable timescales.
"Many of us in the service are saying 'What is the rush, where is the crisis?' There is no crisis, but there is an opportunity - so let's make the most of it by thinking things through properly rather than rushing headlong towards a simplistic solution without fully appreciating its adverse consequences."
Mr West said he did not oppose change, but the Home Office had only been interested in a regional force.
He said: "Charles Clarke made it plain that merging West Mercia Constabulary into a huge regional force is his preferred model.
"All I have been asking for is a reasonable, informed public debate and that has not happened yet."
Mr West said many people felt the way the restructuring process had been handled by the Home Office was "chaotic".
He said he was disappointed that Home Office officials and Ministers had failed to visit West Mercia Constabulary, despite repeated invitations from Mr West.
And he warned that cutting the number of police forces outside London from 41 to as few as either 16 or 17 will lead to a "haemorrhaging of experience" from the highest levels of the police service.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "The timetable has not been changed by the reshuffle."
The Home Secretary is due to present his final decision to the House of Commons before the end of July, and the new force will come into being on April 1, 2007. ..SUPL: