Police officers began voting in a ballot over industrial rights today as the government admitted forces in England and Wales are the smallest they've been for a decade.
The Police Federation has asked its members if it should fight for the right to strike.
Meanwhile the Home Office admitted that its 20 per cent cuts to forces' budgets had so far forced out 4,000 officers and 3,500 support staff.
Dorset and Warwickshire were worst hit, losing one in 17 officers.
And there are now about 7 per cent fewer police community support officers (PCSOs) on the streets.
Many towns have also lost police stations and starting pay for new officers has dropped £4,000.
Police Minister Damien Green tried to cover up the savage cuts by claiming that crime rates had dropped and people had more confidence in the police.
And chief police officers group Acpo claimed forces had "risen to the challenge of dealing with significant financial cuts and reform."
But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper pointed to figures that showed that 30,000 fewer crimes were solved last year, including 7,000 violent crimes.
Police Federation chairman Steve Williams said: "The government must question whether a reduced police service that operates only on a cost basis is what the public expects.
"Effective policing encompasses much more than solving crime - areas such as road traffic accidents, mental health incidents, missing persons, intelligence gathering and simply providing visible safety and reassurance to the local community are equally important and officer dependent."