The Durham and Northumbria police forces have confirmed they are "in talks about talks" over a merger.
Discussions began at the start of the year, and a report will be considered by both police authorities in October.
However, unlike the proposals five years ago for a North East "superforce", the latest plans do not include Cleveland Police.
Peter Thompson, chair of Durham Police Authority, said: "All we are doing is exploring opportunities."
He said: "We have to look at every opportunity available, including increased collaboration.
"To not consider a merger is not an option because if I'm asked whether savings could be achieved, to respond by saying that we haven't even contemplated it would not demonstrate to the public that we were doing our best to keep the precept down."
He added that it was not a done deal, and that he was sure similar discussions were going on elsewhere in the country.
"It may well be that in October the report will show there would be no benefit, so we will continue on our separate ways and that will be the end of the story."