Police authority chairmen have called on the Home Office not to front-load the cuts to police funding.
Members of the cross-party Association of Police Authorities (APA) have warned police minister Nick Herbert that forces would be unable to protect front-line services if the biggest cuts were made in the first two years.
The detailed financial settlement for individual police authorities is due to be delivered shortly alongside the financial settlement for local authorities.
The government’s intention is to cut funding by 6% next year, 8% in 2012-13, and 4% in each of the two following years.
But the APA told Mr Herbert authorities and forces wanted to protect the frontline and the public but “the ability of authorities and forces to achieve this outcome is seriously impacted by the phasing of the proposed cuts”.
The letter, signed by the APA’s Conservative chairman, Labour deputy chairman, as well as Liberal Democrat and Independent members, added: “While understanding the imperative to reduce expenditure quickly, a sensible, realistic approach is necessary to realise the savings objectives and avoid long-term damage to policing capability.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been clear the police service will have to bear its share of the cuts.
“Forces must focus on driving out wasteful spending, and increase efficiency in the back office to protect the frontline. Police authorities need to work with the chief constables who have said that they will work to deliver the cuts while preserving front-line policing.
“We are cutting red tape and bureaucracy, freeing officers to get back to the frontline where people want to see them. Our measures to scrap the stop and account form and reduce the box ticking around stop and search will free up to 800,000 hours of police time alone.”