A fundamental overhaul of police pay and bonuses is necessary if forces are to effectively protect the public in the economic crisis, a senior officer said today.
Humberside Chief Constable Tim Hollis said a shake-up will give senior officers "critical flexibility" to keep up services amid a massive spending squeeze.
He said changes to save cash could reduce the potential impact on the frontline numbers of police officers and staff.
His comments come after a document passed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) to the Government outlined potential savings.
Members suggested scrapping a host of additional payments and bonuses as well as reducing the amount of overtime paid for working on public holidays.
Other arrangements, including compensation for cancelled rest days, may also be changed or axed completely.
Speaking on behalf of Acpo, Mr Hollis said: "We are facing the biggest spending cuts to policing in recent memory and the pace of change is daunting.
"Chief officers are absolutely committed to doing all they can to ensure that front line policing services are maintained.
"We absolutely recognise the need to reward our hard working police officers and recognise their unique status as office holders who must be available to respond to need at any time and have no ability to strike.
"Notwithstanding these points, Acpo believes that the development of a modern pay and reward framework is essential and timely."
The Government review of police pay and conditions is already behind schedule but is expected to report back in January next year with sweeping changes.
There are likely to be painful behind-the-scenes negotiations as the Government, police leaders and rank-and-file representatives attempt to thrash out proposals.
Officials may even consider changing the law so officers can be made redundant as some forces investigate whether staff can be forced to retire.
Police have been criticised for a £450 million a year overtime bill and other "out-of-date" remuneration rules.
Earlier this week, new figures released by the Metropolitan Police revealed five constables boosted their wages by £50,000 with overtime.
A Home Office spokesman said: "We have already announced our intention to review pay and conditions of service for police officers and staff. Details of the review will be announced shortly."
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "We are extremely disappointed that such an important paper has been leaked into the public domain, causing much anger and distress amongst police officers throughout England and Wales.
"While on first reading much in the paper is to be commended, there are many areas of very real concern which we strongly oppose and will seek to address on behalf of our members.
"While I do not believe this is the right way to do business, it is intrinsic that at a time of great uncertainty and constraint all policing bodies work together openly and transparently to ensure the future of policing in England and Wales is shaped by police officers, not individuals, for the benefit and safety of the public.
"We are currently in discussions with (Acpo president) Sir Hugh Orde and we hope that our concerns will be fully addressed on his return from annual leave."
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