20,000 police join cuts protest in London

Police hold protest march around London
Police hold protest march around London Photo: ITV News

Police officers from all 43 forces across England and Wales took to the streets today as they warned that Government cuts were putting public safety at risk.

More than 20,000 offices donned black baseball caps with the words "Cuts are criminal" as they marched through central London to protest against the spending cuts and wide-ranging changes to their pay and pensions.

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever told ITV News that by cutting jobs in the sector, the government were "cutting the service that they deliver".

The officers, banned from striking under law, began marching from Millbank around noon in a protest to show the "unprecedented attack on policing by this Government and the consequences that these cuts have on public safety".

The last time police took to the streets, then-home secretary Jacqui Smith was blamed for a high-profile pay dispute in January 2008 and was ridiculed at the federation's conference.

The march coincided with public sector pension strikes across the capital. Prison officers also took to the streets despite the Government stating that it was "unlawful" for them to walkout.

Among those marching, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper joined the police forces in solidarity with the cause. Ms Cooper said that today's police demonstration shows the "scale of damage" that the government is doing to policing, and that communities will "pay the price" for the cuts introduced.

However, Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Nick Herbert expressed that the police were already "privileged" compared to other public sector workers, and they should not be "exempt" from helping to reduce the deficit.

Mr Herbert also wrote an open letter to all officers telling them he and the Home Secretary were "constantly impressed by the work you do for your communities" but insisting that "all organisations have to keep pace with the modern world". He also sought to reassure officers over the greater involvement of private firms in policing:

It will continue to be a public service, accountable to the people. Policing is, and will remain, a public service, and the office of constable will remain the bedrock. We must take some tough decisions and do the right thing for the whole country.

– Nick Herbert, Policing and Criminal Justice Minister