Helen Newlove's husband Garry was kicked to death by a gang of youths
Public confidence in the police is "fragile" and "declining", the head of the Police Superintendents' Association has told the BBC.
Speaking ahead of the body's annual conference, Ian Johnston said there was a feeling that quality of service came second to "chasing targets".
And he said many people were left feeling dissatisfied with the way they were treated after reporting a crime.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will also speak at the conference in Cheshire.
She will be joined by Helen Newlove whose husband Garry was kicked to death outside his home in Warrington by a gang of youths.
Mrs Newlove has previously called on the government and police to take a tougher stance on youth violence and anti-social behaviour.
Mr Johnston told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the police were at a "crossroads" where relations with the public were the most important issue to tackle.
"Public confidence in the police is fragile," he said.
"We've got to address the level of public confidence because it is declining.
"Most of it is to do with the quality of service that we give to people.
"I'm not going to blame the government for what's gone on, but there's no doubt that officers chasing targets as opposed to providing a quality of service to communities we serve will have had a big impact."
Mr Johnston said independent figures showed that over half of all complaints about the police related to rudeness and incivility.
This, he said, was often due to the pressures on officers to deal with incidents quickly and to manage a large workload.
"My view is that we're actually hitting the target on occasions, but we're missing the whole point," he said.
"Members of the public want their incident dealt with, they want to be told what's happening with it and they want officers to go back and give them progress reports."
Later at the conference, vice president of the association Derek Barnett will call for an end to in-fighting in the Metropolitan Police over allegations of racism.
Assistant Commissioner of the Met Tarique Ghaffur has lodged a £1.2m discrimination claim against his employers.