HAMPSHIRE officers have begun to arrive in the capital ahead of today’s march in protest against massive government cuts to policing.
About 450 off-duty officers left on eight Lucketts coaches from pick-up points across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to join an estimated 20,000 others for the march.
Some officers left as early as 5am and others came straight from night shifts to highlight their fears over 20 per cent budget cuts.
The officers are not in uniform as they are off-duty, but some will wear black caps as they march from Millbank, past the Home Office, Parliament Square, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square from noon today.
A wreath is to be laid at the National Police Memorial in The Mall by a Federation representative for every force.
PC Matt Moss, Portsmouth constables representative for Hampshire Police Federation said: ‘I personally am doing this because the job is only going to get harder if the changes come in, both to terms and conditions and the policing budget in general.
‘It’s all very well saying they will protect the front line but as a front line officer I have got more and more to do because I haven’t got anyone to support me anymore.
‘I have done 11. Years and I have never known people so unhappy generally.’
Police from our area are being backed on the march by retired officers, members of the Unison union, civilian staff and members of the public.
The Police Federation has organised and is footing the bill for the protest, which comes as Hampshire police fights to save £54m.
John Apter, the chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, said: ‘The policing minister has said very publicly that this march is nothing more than a complaint about a cut in our terms and conditions.
‘That is a malicious statement to make. Nick Herbert knows very well this is the rank and file telling him and his government what they think about the detrimental attack to policing in general.
‘The cuts to policing will be having a negative impact on the service we provide.’
Detective Constable Lorraine Bell said: ‘It’s the only way we can have our say and get our message across.
‘I joined 16 years ago with a set of pay and conditions and when I’m half way through that they are changing it significantly.’
She added: ‘What cuts has the government suffered itself?’
Henry Fardell, from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Branch of the union Unison said: ‘We are here to support our police officer colleagues who are facing these cuts, to show solidarity between Unison and the Police Federation.
‘The constabulary is already being forced to be as lean as it can.
‘Further cuts are just going to have an effect on the way the police can provide their service.
‘It is going to put further strain on the police staff who Unison represents.’
The impact of massive budget cuts under the coalition government has already seen 650 posts axed at Hampshire Constabulary - about 200 police officers and 450 civilian staff.
However Chief Constable Alex Marshall has warned up to 1,100 posts could be lost by April 2015 as the force battles to save cash.
Police stations are being sold off, front desks have shut and agreements have been made to share services with neighbouring Thames Valley in a bid to save cash.
These range from IT to firearms.
Mr Marshall has so far managed to protect the front line and hopes to continue to do so.
However some officers may have to work sites ranging from libraries to supermarkets as stations shut.
More than 16,000 warranted officers will be lost by April 2015, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
Meanwhile police pension contributions have increased and a two-year public sector pay freeze has been imposed on officers.
About £163m is being taken from police pay this year alone.