A detective who spent 25 years with South Yorkshire Police fears the force will lose touch with its communities if regional departments are formed.
Graham Storr, aged 73, was an officer in the 1960s and 70s, when he infiltrated the county’s criminal underworld to bring offenders to justice.
But after blurring the lines between the two worlds, Mr Storr himself ended up on the wrong side of the law and was jailed for taking bribes, including cash and holidays, from a crooked businessman.
He also helped set up an arson attack on a private school to help a criminal mastermind. But now, 18 years after his release from his five-year jail term, Mr Storr said he is worried about the future of South Yorkshire Police, which is facing a future with fewer officers than ever before.
He said: “If you were a Sheffield bobby in my day you would know Sheffield people and crimes and attack it in the way only a Sheffield bobby could – it was all down to local knowledge.
“In 1970, the powers that be changed that and set up a regional crime squad, similar to what it sounds like they are planning again now, but it never worked. The reality was we just could not cover such a vast area and expect to know it inside out – we lost the local intelligence.”
Former detective Michael Fowler, 57, from Rotherham, believes mergers will bring benefits.
He said: “I remember the prospect of a Yorkshire-wide police force being mooted in the 1980s and in this day and age with all the money that forces have to save it makes sense. There would no longer be the need for as many senior officers, which could free up money to pay for more on the frontline.
“Merging departments or forces is common sense in this day and age.”