Prime Minister Theresa May has sparked outrage from police after she insisted that there is no direct “causation” between officer numbers and crime levels.
The chairman of the Police Federation, John Apter described the Mrs May’s claims as “deluded” and accused her of “misleading the public”.
Mrs May told ITV News: "There's no direct causation between police numbers and levels of crime.
"But I recognise that we are seeing this problem in relation to violent crime, in relation to knife crime in particular.
"That's why the Government is acting."
She added: "I think what people want to see is to make sure action is being taken, not just to deal with the potential for crime on the streets but actually to try to stop that from happening in the first place."
‘Misleading the public’
However, her assertion on officer numbers was challenged by John Apter, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
He said on Twitter: "The Prime Minister is misleading the public with such statements."
Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Mr Apter said austerity had "gone too far" and warned policing is "in crisis".
He said: "The demand that my colleagues are facing is unprecedented.
"When I hear the Prime Minister say that there is no correlation between the drop in police officer numbers and the increase in crime ... she's deluded."
Police outside the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham
Forces' staffing levels have come under intense scrutiny amid mounting concern over serious violence.
At the end of March, there were 122,404 police officers in England and Wales, the lowest number since comparable records started in 1996.
Police-recorded crime hit the highest level in more than a decade in 2017/18, after rises in homicides, knife offences and robberies.
However, estimates of violent offending as measured by the separate Crime Survey for England and Wales were unchanged.
Last month, a major report from Whitehall's spending watchdog warned that arrest rates and victim satisfaction levels are on the slide amid signs police are struggling to deliver an effective service.
Separate analysis by the Press Association revealed that hundreds of thousands of residential burglary, vehicle theft and shoplifting investigations are closed without a suspect being identified.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has pledged to prioritise police funding in the next spending review.