WEST Yorkshire's chief constable today criticised proposed policing reforms.
Mr Colin Cramphorn said they would challenge the independence of the service by giving Whitehall unprecedented control.
The changes were a quiet revolution taking place "without serious debate".
And he warned plans to amalgamate certain forces were opening up a "north-south" divide.
He said the move could lead to an even greater disparity between the resulting bigger and smaller organisations.
Earlier this week, Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced his plan to merge the four police forces of the Yorkshire and Humber area.
Mr Cramphorn said the merger of smaller forces made sense but was a distraction from "more fundamental issues".
He said the likely outcome would be a "larger gap between the smallest and the largest forces outside London than currently exists" and queried why small forces in the South East had been left alone while larger forces further north had been included in merger plans.
"Effectively, there is a north-south divide in the way policing is being treated," he said.
Mr Cramphorn said he was more concerned by the less well-publicised implications of the Police and Justice Bill and the Regulatory Reform Bill.
The provisions would mean a stark change in the amount of control the Home Office and the Association of Police Authorities (APA) have over chief constables.
Mr Cramphorn, who also holds the Association of Chief Police Officers' portfolio for constitutional affairs, said: "In other words, there will be a direct line of control from Whitehall to your town, your village and your street."
He said the main problem was the planned transfer of responsibility for appraising chief constables from the regional HM Inspector of Constabulary to the chairman of the police authority.
He said it would mean a "chief constable's self-preservation, not to mention his or her performance-related pay, would require compliance with the police authority.
"The de facto outcome of this is that partisan - if not overtly party political - direction and control of the police will increasingly become established, along American lines."
Mr Cramphorn said the constitutional reforms facing the police were the most fundamental since the Royal Commission of 1962 and mean an increase in control by the Home Office and the APA through performance reviews and pay.
He went on: "When this is set alongside the new bodies being established, such as the National Policing Improvement Agency and the HM Inspectorate for Justice, Community Safety and Custody, we can see an entirely new landscape being carved out in which the traditional checks and balances are conspicuous by their absence."