Chief Constable George Hamilton has described comments by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on who should succeed him as "an act of poor leadership".
Earlier this month, she said she couldn't think of any senior PSNI officer who should get the top job.
Speaking after a three-hour Policing Board meeting, the chief constable did not hold back when criticising Ms McDonald's remarks.
The comments were the antithesis of all Sinn Féin say they stand for, he said.
"They say they stand for equality, for fairness, for integrity and I cant think of anything further away from those qualities in what the party president said," Mr Hamilton said.
Asked if the Sinn Féin leader owed the PSNI an apology, he said: "That's a matter for her - I don't think we're going to get that.
"More important than the offence she caused internally, I think whenever someone in leadership stands up and talks about the police being undemocratic, cynical and all the other very negative terms, how could we not be surprised if there's a problem with confidence in policing?"
Mr Hamilton added: "I think Mary Lou McDonald was wrong, I think she was inaccurate, and I think it was an act of poor leadership and has a detrimental impact on policing and on the peace we're all trying to build."
The Policing Board announced last week that it was seeking legal advice following her remarks.
That advice has now been received, and while it has not been made public, the board said the recruitment process can now begin in earnest.
A panel will be appointed shortly - it's not clear if a Sinn Féin representative will be included.
Among the senior PSNI officers who may be considering going for the job are Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton.
A number of senior officers in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are also believed to be considering applying for the post.
Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said board members would now study the legal advice.
He added: "I think the chief constable - perhaps led a bit by yourselves [the media] - was more than political when he was answering those questions.
"What we wish to do as a collective, as a board, is to set up a panel and get a new chief constable."
The DUP's Mervyn Storey said the process has been damaged in terms of ensuring that merit is at the centre of the appointment of the new chief constable.
"It is not only my opinion, but I think the reaction of others such as the Equality Commission has raised serious concerns about the way in which this interference has created a particular problem," he said
"There's a sense of irony that the party that shouts most about equality has now actually seriously damaged the issue of equality ."
The SDLP's Dolores Kelly said: "This is a hole that Sinn Féin have dug for the Policing Board and more particularly for themselves
"They've done damage to the hard-won equality legislation and principles of fair employment that the SDLP and many others fought for over many years coming from the civil rights movement."