An independent review is needed into the long-term direction of policing in England and Wales, says a top officer.
Police duties have changed, Ken Jones says
Association of Chief Police Officers president Ken Jones said the service could not "continue to soak up new tasks" as the world changed.
The review should make the police "fit for purpose for the next 20 years", he told the Acpo conference in Manchester.
Gordon Brown told the conference he wanted "to do more to protect and enhance our British way of life".
In his first major speech on law and order since being confirmed as the next prime minister, Mr Brown said he wanted to "support a strong vibrant civic society... a citizenship of responsibilities as well as rights and a citizenship based on fairness to all who play by the rules".
Mr Jones told delegates that the service was "becoming overstretched", while there was a "growing divergence of views about the role and purpose of policing".
"The decision now has to be how we position the service strategically to be fit for purpose for the next 20 years."
He added that the process of deciding that strategy had to take into account aspects of the "wider world", including:
- the "ever present" threat of terrorism
- emergence of new national and international organised crime tactics
- effects of the "information age"
- mass migration of people and capital
The Acpo president also said that bureaucracy was "strangling" the service.
"What was initially efficient became inefficient, becoming distracting and soaking up resource."
But he hailed his colleagues' efforts, saying that the public faced the lowest risk of being a victim of crime for more than 25 years.
"The service is achieving more and delivering a better service," Mr Jones said.
"We have seen reductions across the board in most crime categories and have led a renaissance in local policing.
"We have continued to confront and meet the international terrorism threat."
Mr Jones earlier told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that politics should be "taken out of the equation" for the purposes of the review.
That would enable it to have broader support and survive long-term, he said.
Police Federation chairman Jan Berry said it had been making the case for a policing review and was delighted at the backing from Acpo.
"It is high time the government accept that quick wins and part measures are not sufficient to address the problems that have built up over the years," she said.
The last such review, in the early 1960s, led to the tripartite system of police governance and accountability, involving the home secretary, police authorities and forces.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said senior officers believed the police service was at a crossroads with a long period of investment ending and officer numbers beginning to fall.
At the same time, the duties and responsibilities of the police appeared to be growing more demanding.
Mr Jones said he was not calling for a reinstatement of plans to merge some police forces, which faced strong opposition.
The Home Office proposals were all but abandoned last year after the only two forces to be actively seeking a merger said it would not be possible on cost grounds.
The Association of Chief Police Officers represents 340 top officers in England and Wales.