Revelations of police corruption have damaged public confidence in the service and lowered the morale of the majority of serving officers, a report has concluded.
Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, has released his first annual assessment of policing in England and Wales.
After conducting an overview of policing for 2012/13, he concluded that controversies and revelations of a negative nature had damaged the perception of the police.
As a result, he said it was the responsibility of the leadership to "repair the damage which has been done".
In the report he says this will be achieved through a commitment to the highest standards of professional conduct and through the firm treatment of those found to have violated those standards.
"Controversies and revelations of a serious and negative nature in relation to the conduct of some police officers, both past and present, have hurt public confidence in the police, and the morale of the very great majority of honest, hardworking, committed and brave police officers has suffered as a consequence," he said.
"The police service has been damaged, but it is certainly not broken.
"It is primarily the responsibility of the leadership of the police to repair the damage which has been done, through an intensification of its commitment - in deeds as well as words - to the highest standards of professional conduct, to the vigorous and uncompromising establishment (with others) of the truth, and the firm treatment of those found to have violated the high standards by which police officers and police staff are bound, and to which so very many adhere every day."
Mr Winsor also addressed the financial challenges faced by the police, saying they will be forced to create a much leaner and more efficient service.
He said: "Economic pressures, increased public accountability and public scrutiny, the changing nature of demand for police services and the need to exploit significant advances in information and communications technology will continue to drive police leaders towards the creation of a leaner, fitter, more efficient and effective police service which is focused on the needs of the victim and the public."
In compiling the assessment, Mr Winsor asked a large group of organisations and individuals for their views, on matters such as the most significant issues and difficulties the police had faced and what they considered the service did especially well.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the police's relationship with the public was fundamental.
"HMIC's annual assessment summarises the complex challenges that policing must grapple with: how to find further efficiencies and savings within constrained budgets, how to protect the public against national and international threats across force boundaries and how to optimise consistency in systems and IT across 43 forces," he said.
"The relationship with the public is fundamental to our policing model and we agree with HMIC that the role of police leaders continues to be critical in working to build a culture of honesty and integrity throughout their forces. The code of ethics provides an important opportunity to take this forward.
"Chiefs are working with Police and Crime Commissioners to find further savings and increase consistency across police forces. Huge effort is going into collaboration and there are many different models emerging.
"However the 43-force model creates boundaries and against a need to find further savings, a rethink of the current number of forces may be required, to ensure we can continue to adapt to a changing picture of crime and serve the public to the best of our ability."
Tony Lloyd, chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners board and Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioners, said: "The report challenges the leadership of the police service with regards to police integrity and public confidence.
"Police and Crime Commissioners are at the forefront of the police services commitment to tackle integrity issues.
"Forces are introducing greater scrutiny measures to monitor officer integrity and we are working closely with the College of Policing and Chief Constables to raise professional standards to increase public confidence."
He added: "Look across England and Wales and you will see the difference Police and Crime Commissioners are making to local communities.
"At the heart of our agenda is a greater emphasis on neighbourhood policing and making forces more responsive to communities concerns on crime.
"The public want visible policing and despite budget pressures forces are recruiting constables, community support officers and specials.
"There is a pressing need to improve police technology. Through our leadership of the Police ICT Company we plan to drive forward improvements.
"Police and Crime Commissioners are already investing in technology to keep officers on the streets, not in offices completing paperwork."