Morale has slumped and respect for frontline officers is said to be running at an all-time low.
Amid the crisis 9,192 officers quit 43 forces in England and Wales in the 12 months to March – the most in a financial year since comparable records began.
That comes after ministers trumpeted the success of a three-year uplift programme to recruit 20,000 officers, taking total police numbers to 147,430.
Police Federation chair Steve Hartshorn said: “Half will be retirements and half resignations.
“So if that trend continues at its current trajectory it’s going to mean an uplift every single year.
“In three years’ time 27,000 cops will have potentially gone. That’s more boom and bust. What we need is steady recruitment, but a focus on retention.”
Rank-and-file police were told last month they will receive a 7% pay rise but almost all still struggle to make ends meet. As Crown servants, they are unable to strike.
The average police salary is around £30,000 and a report by the Social Market Foundation think-tank found that officers had felt a 17% real-terms pay cut since 2000.
Ex-firearms officer Mr Hartshorn said: “If the police are valued and motivated then the public are safer. Lots of my friends have taken on second jobs because they want to be able to afford to go on holiday. We never had that before. Cops get warm words and a pat on the back but that needs to translate into pay, better conditions, a better working environment…and decent equipment they can use properly.”
There were some 40,000 assaults on police in England and Wales in the year to March, 110 a day.
Mr Hartshorn, left, said: “We find it unsavoury when doctors, nurses and paramedics are assaulted and it should be the same for police.” He claimed: “Some chiefs spend more money on vehicle servicing than they do on officer safety and welfare.”
Data obtained by the Daily Express reveals hundreds of officers have asked to switch to Western Australia’s force, which offers perks such as £47,000 starting salaries and free housing.
Mr Hartshorn added: “There is less respect for policing probably since lockdown. Cops are feeling pretty demoralised.”
The Home Office said 82% of 2,872 recruits polled were satisfied with their jobs and 77% intend to stay until retirement.