ESSEX Police has almost 600 fewer officers compared to five years ago, new figures have revealed.
Home Office statistics show there were 3,408 officers serving in the county in 2012.
But now the number is as low as 2,818 and has been on a steady decline each year since then.
Essex Police also has the lowest number of officers per head of any police force in England with just 0.17 officers per 1,000 residents.
Last week police, fire and crime commissioner Roger Hirst announced plans to recruit 150 extra officers in Essex after he was given the green light to lift a previous cap on council tax.
Residents will now pay an extra £12 per year on average.
Essex Police Federation chairman Steve Taylor said the lack of officers is putting pressure on those who are left.
He said: “If one of us is assaulted while on duty they might need to take time off to recover – it can run into days or weeks.
“If they are not on the frontline through no fault of their own then each officer who is left has that little more to do.
“When we are as lean as we are even one officer missing can make a difference.
“It is one less officer to got to a call for help from a member of the community.
“It is one less officer to produce reports to try and get a case to court and get a successful prosecution.
“It is one less officer to drive a patrol car to drive around and act as a deterrent to people who are intent on causing mischief.
Mr Taylor backed plans by Mr Hirst to recruit more officers by raising council tax and wanted to see the force get back up to 3,000 officers.
He said: “For a long time the federation has felt Essex Police does not a get a fair crack of the funding whip.
“We welcome the decision from the police, fire and crime commissioner for trying to get the most money he can for the force.
“But we are still behind where we should be in terms of funding – there is still work to do.”