POLICE officers could be open to corruption amid a deepening pay crisis, it has been warned.

The chief of Hampshire’s rank and file officers has revealed pay reforms are forcing more police officers to resort to using food vouchers to feed their families.

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, said the force could be set back decades as more police officers feel the bite of pay reforms, such as incremental pay or pay cuts.

He said more officers are using financial support from the police’s welfare fund as household bills and food prices soar.

But he said Hampshire Constabulary’s chief constable Andy Marsh is “doing all he can” to help the county’s officers, and was the first in the country to raise starting salaries to £21,500.

Mr Apter, pictured right, said: “I am really saddened. It’s like taking us back to the 1970s.

“This is not about people not managing finances, this is when people find themselves in unexpected positions.

“In a small but significant number ||of cases, officers have been forced to use the force’s welfare fund and asked for help putting food on the table.

“For police officers to be in this situation is a sad indictment on society. It won’t be long until we go back to the 70s and we have officers on benefits.

“The concern is you are open to elements of corruption because of people in financial difficulties. That’s not our concern because we see everyone professionally, but there’s a risk there.”

Mr Apter said he disagreed with a £19,000 starting salary for police officers, as proposed in the Winsor Review.

He added: “The chief is already doing all he can. He was the first in the country to increase the starting salary from £19,000 to £21,000.

“I am not saying officers are the only ones in difficulty, I know that other public sector workers are going through difficult times, but I am here to represent police officers.

“We have not seen this level of need for police officers for a long time.”

Hampshire Constab-ulary Chief Constable Andy Marsh admits that these are “tough times for policing”.

He added: “It is important we do what we can to look after those who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe.

“I know from the letters and emails I get, that we have wide public support and that they want us to attract, develop and retain capable officers who focus on what victims need.”