West Yorkshire Police has a "serious problem" with its recruitment of detectives, according to a senior official tasked with scrutinising the force.
Trevor Lake, who chairs an independent audit committee looking at how the police are governed, said inexperienced officers had been promoted to senior positions after a recruitment freeze at the force between 2010 and 2012.
It followed a suggestion from a Bradford councillor that public safety may be compromised by the problem.
In August this year, West Yorkshire Police began a public hiring drive in a bid to get more "aspiring detectives" joining the organisation.
But at a Police and Crime Panel meeting on Friday, Mr Lake acknowledged that the force was "not in a great place" on employing people at that level because of problems left behind by the freeze.
Conservative Russell Brown, who represents Worth Valley near Keighley, said: "Speaking to some of our local bobbies, they’ve raised issues around recruitment of detectives.
"There’s a feeling some of the officers have been recruited quite a short time into their police careers, and so they may not be sufficiently qualified.
"Is there some risk there?"
Mr Lake said he believed it "could take years" before the issue was substantially improved.
He added that austerity had caused the force difficulties.
He said: "In terms of the detectives I think they’ve got a big problem.
“Six to eight years ago when they turned the tap off and stopped recruiting people, they didn’t get anyone else in.
“Some of the older detectives may have retired, through the stress of the job or whatever, and that left a gap.
“In that situation, what do you do? Do you not promote the younger officers and not fill the role for a year?
“The police have got a difficult job in that respect, but I think they’ve got a serious problem.
“It’s not a great place to be."