One in five police jobs could be shed

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The Independent Online

Up to 25,000 police officers could be axed and replaced by civilian patrollers, under secret plans drawn up by chief constables.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, said the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) had compiled a "model" for 25,000 cuts, but that it was a "worst-case scenario". The plan would involve losing about a fifth of the 141,000 officers in England and Wales through retirement and resignations over the next five years. They would be replaced by police community support officers (CSOs), who receive three weeks training and have limited powers to deal with low-level crime.

Jan Berry, leader of the Police Federation, warned if the cutbacks go ahead the country would be left with a force only able to respond to emergencies. Two forces have already halted their recruitment of full-time officers while continuing to hire more CSOs, the federation says. Mrs Berry said: "It is outrageous. The public will be put at risk."

Ken Jones, Acpo's president, denied the figure of 25,000 but said it would "be irresponsible not to look at future scenarios".