Police forces have been left dealing with 21st Century threats with a system designed before colour television was invented, a leading police chief said today.
Sir Hugh Orde admitted there was no political will to tackle the issue, but told the Home Secretary and chief constables there was an inescapable logic to the need for a review of the 44 forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"We will get on with the job, but collaboration is not as efficient or consistent as amalgamation," the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) told the annual conference of police chiefs in central Manchester.
"The obvious risks are a patchwork quilt of sub-optimal solutions which don't provide the public with consistency or value for money.
"We are having to make things work in spite of, and not because of, the current structure."
He went on: "Whilst Scotland presses forward with a single command, based on a clear political decision to strip out separate organisational overheads and amalgamate, we will continue to deal with 21st Century threats with a model of policing designed in 1962 before colour television was invented.
"That simply cannot be right."
Outlining plans for the new National Crime Agency (NCA) which will start work next year, Theresa May said its director general Keith Bristow would be given the power to direct other forces to carry out specific activities.
"NCA officers and assets will be able to operate under the direction and control of a police force," Mrs May said.
"And importantly, there will also be a power - to be only used as a last resort - for the director general to direct police forces to undertake a specific activity, subject to strict safeguards and under the force's own direction and control.
"This tasking provision shows that we are serious that the NCA should provide national leadership in the fight against serious, organised and complex crime, even though we hope it need not be used."
She told the chief constables: "It will be the NCA director general's responsibility to ensure the National Crime Agency works in partnership with forces, and it will be your responsibility to ensure that your force plays its part.
"The tasking power is the last resort if that cooperation fails."