Senior figures from businesses and the public sector could be appointed to run police forces, a report suggests.
Police forces could benefit from outside talent, the report argues
They could also enter at superintendent or chief superintendent level to head some of the more than 400 Basic Command Units across England and Wales.
Schemes should be set up to "tap into the wealth of experience and talent" in other professions, the Inspectorate of Constabulary report suggests.
It is hoped such a scheme could free up police officers for frontline duties.
Under the proposals, civilians could be used to administer roadside breath tests, stop vehicles, operate speed cameras and work as custody officers in police stations.
The report, written by former Police Service of Northern Ireland chief Sir Ronnie Flanagan, said: "The future will demand that such direct recruitment is considered beyond the police staff roles to encompass many of the operational specialisms and managerial roles.
"There have been strong views expressed both for and against such direct recruitment.
"What is unchallenged is that unless someone takes a leap of faith, the service will not be able to tap into the wealth of experience and talent currently lodged outside policing."
He added: "A 40-year-old expert in drugs is unlikely to apply to be a probationary constable but could be invaluable in shaping the police response to such issues."
The BBC's Danny Shaw said the report was prompted by the changing nature of the police workforce - which now includes more civilian staff and community support officers.
Miiddle-aged applicants to the police with a successful career already behind them could also include headteachers and National Health Service
But Jan Berry, Chairman of the Police Federation, said: "We are extremely disappointed as this report has missed an opportunity to clarify the differences between the roles of police officers and civilian support staff in the service.
"It further blurs the division, causing even more confusion for the public."