IT was the day police proudly joined forces to voice their heartfelt opposition to an ‘unprecedented attack’ on their service by the government.
The strength of feeling was clear as about 450 off-duty officers from Hampshire travelled to the capital to protest against mammoth 20 per cent cuts.
Some took annual leave and others came straight from night shifts having had no sleep to stand together with officers from the other 42 forces in England and Wales in central London today.
Officers left on coaches from pick-up points across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – some as early as 5am – to muster at Millbank for the march.
Their message was clear – enough is enough.
Some wore black or white baseball caps as a show of solidarity and carried placards emblazoned with messages such as ‘don’t let the criminals win – save your police’.
Police helicopters flew overhead and Met officers were stationed at some points along the route as the march slowly snaked its way along the planned route.
There were some boos and heckles as up to 32,000 officers made their way past the Home Office, Parliament Square, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square.
The Police Federation – which represents rank and file officers – organised and footed the bill for the protest.
It came as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary warns 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.
John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, laid a wreath at the National Police Memorial in The Mall at the end of the march.
He said: ‘The policing minister has said publicly that this march is nothing more than a complaint about a cut in our terms and conditions. That’s 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.
‘Cuts to policing will have a negative impact on the service we provide.’
Police from our area were backed by retired officers, members of the Unison union, civilian staff and the public.
Henry Fardell, from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch of Unison, said: ‘The constabulary is already being forced to be as lean as it can.
‘Further cuts are going to have an effect on the way the police can provide their service.
‘It’s going to put further strain on the police staff who Unison represent.’
Acting Sergeant Steve Wildridge said: ‘It’s important that the public should get to see the strength of feeling.’
Sergeant Nigel Boshein said: ‘It’s important we get the right message across. We are just trying to preserve this organisation for the future.’
PC Keith Hall said: ‘We only seek what we signed up for.
‘We are concerned that the police service is being undermined and will lose all. This march was about showing the level of unease in the ranks.’
PC Matt Moss, Portsmouth constables representative for Hampshire Police Federation said: ‘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 any more.
‘I have done 11 years and I have never known people so unhappy generally.’
Detective Constable Lorraine Bell took a day’s leave to join the march. She said: ‘It is the only way you can have your say and get your message across.
‘I joined 16 years ago with a set of pay and conditions and when I am halfway through that they are changing it significantly.’
She added: ‘What cuts have the government suffered themselves?’
The protest came as Hampshire police fights to save £54m.
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.
Mr Marshall says he has so far managed to protect the front line and hopes to continue to do so.
However some officers are being moved from specialist areas and Safer Neighbourhoods Team officers may have to work from sites ranging from libraries to supermarkets as stations shut.