Officers are already preparing to take to the streets over pay
Police salaries should be awarded on the basis of on skills and performance rather than length of service, a report argues.
But with officers already furious over the government's latest pay offer, how will the study be received?
A forthcoming 15,000-strong demonstration against the home secretary's decision not to backdate a 2.5% award for police officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has put the focus on wages in the force.
But a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on police pay is likely to cause further disquiet.
The think tank suggests the introduction of performance-related pay, with officers being paid more if they have extra skills.
At present, they receive an annual rise of between 2% and 6% for the first 10 years of service, above the agreed national pay settlement.
The IPPR study - due out in February 2008 - says that police performance has not improved since 2001, although the level of funding has increased by a quarter.
Report author Tom Gash says that the present pay structure is a disincentive for personnel to develop specialist skills in vital fields like tackling serious crime, serious violence and gang-related gun crime.
"They would be paid more if they developed their specialisms and achieved a better service for the public," he says.
"There's also rewards here for the police service, of course. They can pursue their own areas of interest and expertise and has a much more fulfilling professional development throughout their career."
But Chris Herbert, editor of Jane's Police Review, says such proposals will be taken as an insult by many in the force.
"The ones I've spoken to believe that this is about penalising undermining and community and response officers - your Sharon Beshenivskys, those who might not have any specific skills but are in the front line," he says.
"Most coppers are quite cynical anyway, but I think they would regard this as an attempt to distract attention from their grievances ahead of the march."
Jan Berry, head of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents officers, argue that the report is "misinformed, disingenuous and a little insulting".
It does not give an outline of what a police constable is expected to do and what his or her function is within society.
"It is difficult to accept a reform proposal which focuses on pay and workforce modernisation without having assessed what is actually expected from the police service," she says.
"Performance-related pay would be disastrous for both policing and the public as it will merely exacerbate the current trend of a target-led culture.
"We urgently need a return to common sense policing based on quality of service delivered, rather than how may ticks in boxes we can achieve."
Geoff Crowe, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, said the proposed reforms could result in "accusations of dumbing-down" of police work if officers were focused on meeting arbitrary targets.
"If the skills are linked to pay in particular areas, this cross-over would carry a financial penalty for officers.
"It could also reduce the chief officers' ability to post officers if they could lose out financially."
Whether or not the government pay heed to the proposals, it seems unlikely that the issue of police wages will go away.