Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy will be charged with a health and safety breach over the shooting of an unarmed man.
He is accused of failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act as he is "corporation sole" for the force, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
This is a legal status and means that he does not share criminal liability or will personally have to appear in court.
Anthony Grainger, 36, was shot by a Greater Manchester Police marksman in March 2012 as part of an operation to try to arrest suspected armed robbers.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "We have completed our review of the evidence provided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in relation to the death of Anthony Grainger. After careful consideration we have decided that the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy, should be prosecuted as a corporation sole for failing to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act.
"In addition to every employer's responsibility towards their employees, the law also imposes a duty to ensure that work is carried out in a way that ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons outside of their employment are not exposed to risk.
"The chief officers of police forces are treated as employers for this purpose. It is alleged that there were serious deficiencies in the preparation for this operation that unnecessarily exposed individuals to risk."
The first hearing will be on February 10 at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
If the conviction is successful, the force would face an unlimited fine.
Prosecutors decided the marksman who killed Mr Grainger should not face charges for murder, manslaughter or misconduct in public office because a jury would be likely to accept that he believed his actions were necessary.
The CPS said: "In the circumstances of this case, our assessment of the evidence is that a jury would accept that the officer did believe his actions were necessary and that the level of force used in response to the threat as he perceived it to be was proportionate.
"The basis for the officer's belief in the necessity of his actions is relevant to the criminal proceedings under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and it would be inappropriate to publish any further detail at this time.
"There is also insufficient evidence to prosecute the officer for gross negligence manslaughter or misconduct in public office. It would be inappropriate to explain these decisions in detail at this time for the same reason."
GMP could not face a charge of corporate manslaughter because the force had no relevant duty of care towards Mr Grainger.
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: "Greater Manchester Police notes the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to take no further action against any officer following the death of Anthony Grainger in March 2012.
"The force also notes the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute Greater Manchester Police for a breach of section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
"Since Mr Grainger's death 22 months ago, Greater Manchester Police has co-operated fully with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Coroner. Our sympathies remain with Mr Grainger's family and we deeply regret the loss that they have suffered.
"Mr Grainger's family, and the officers involved, have had to wait a long time for this decision to be reached and we share the frustrations over those delays. However, we understand that it was vitally important that the investigation was carried out thoroughly to establish all the facts.
"Now that a charging decision has been made regarding the force itself, it is equally important that these legal processes are allowed to take their course unimpeded in order to seek a resolution for both the family of Mr Grainger and the force.
"The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigated this matter independently and we await the official publication of their report. This matter also remains the subject of a coronial inquest, so Greater Manchester Police is unable to make further comment at this time."