Murders, organised crime and traffic policing could all be handled by regional units in the East Midlands, the BBC has learned.
Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman, head of the East Midlands Collaboration team, said radical changes had to happen to secure local policing.
Leicestershire and Northamptonshire forces are already discussing a joint firearms unit.
Mr Goodman said forces had little choice in the face of swingeing cuts.
"It may mean that the officer who comes out to investigate a more serious crime may, or may not, be a local officer," he said.
"But what we need to be really clear about is that local policing will stay local and we are committed to delivering that in the same way or better than we have done already."
With the five forces under pressure to make huge savings, Mr Goodman said he was convinced regional teams for certain areas, such as counter terrorism and firearms, were the only choice.
In order for the plans to go ahead, all five chief constables - from Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire - and police federations need to agree to change the structure of their forces.
Mr Goodman stressed it was not a merger of the five forces but a plan for some teams to work collaboratively and more cost effectively.
He added he wanted to see regional heads of departments in place by the end of the year.