Foreign police chiefs will be able to run British forces for the first time under a radical shake-up planned by the Government.
Reforms would see the eligibility criteria for chief constable posts widened to include anywhere with a "common law jurisdiction".
Under the proposals, new starters will also be able to join the police at superintendent level instead of spending two years on the beat as a constable.
And there could be moves to create a fast track to inspector scheme, requiring "exceptional" candidates only to have worked in the police for three years.
The changes sparked immediate concern about a lack of practical experience and the prospect of British police chiefs being forced out.
The overhaul is part of a package of reforms that were drawn up by ex-rail regulator Tom Winsor in the most wide-ranging review of police pay and conditions in more than 30 years.
In a written statement, policing minister Damian Green said: "The issue of choosing our police leaders is of the highest importance to the future of the police.
"The fast-track-to-inspector scheme will attract the brightest with the most potential to go on to become leaders.
"Direct entry at senior ranks will make sure that there is access to the best pool of talent, those who have proven leadership and business skills and who can bring with them fresh thinking from other sectors."
He later told Sky News: "Crime has fallen 10% and confidence in the police is generally high. But no organisations are so good they can't be made better."
Mr Winsor, who is now Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary , has said he wants to end the notion of policing as an intellectually undemanding occupation.
He added that the "brightest and best" applicants with skills "distinctly above those of factory workers" were needed.
It is hoped that people in the military, security services and other industries will be attracted by the possibility of becoming fully operational superintendents in just 15 months.
His outline for direct entry into the police would see around 80 candidates recruited a year, picking the best graduates from top universities.
A Government consultation has now been launched and will close on March 28.
The plans come after Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told a policing conference earlier this month that it was time to "consider and support" direct entry.
He added that he would like to see one in 10 senior officers recruited from outside the police force.
Sir Peter Fahy, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, warned the changes could see existing officers frustrated in their bids for promotion.
"In general police forces are not short of talent. In fact a bigger challenge is dealing with ambitious staff frustrated by the lack of promotion opportunities," he said.
"Bringing people in from outside to senior leadership positions will obviously make that more difficult."
He also cautioned against a move away from the status quo which means that all chief constables must have had experience on the beat.
Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, was even more critical.
"The Police Federation does not support proposals that would allow external candidates to join the police service at any rank above that of constable," he said.
"We believe the rank structure allows officers to perfectly equip themselves for their next role within the service.
"To command a policing operation effectively, a senior officer should have first-hand experience of responding to incidents in an operational capacity."
He added: "We have the best police service in the world so it seems strange that the Government - which often echoes this view - may wish for forces to recruit chief constables from overseas."
Current legislation prevented US "supercop" Bill Bratton, former chief of the New York police, applying to take charge of the Metropolitan Police in 2011.