More Devon and Cornwall detectives are threatening to refuse call-outs to serious crimes, and they may be joined by vital forensics officers.
Officers say force resources are being overstretched
They said they have had enough of working excessive hours after a recent series of murders.
Some detective inspectors have already said they will start refusing such calls. The may now be joined by detective sergeants.
A series of meetings is being held to try to resolve the dispute.
Recent murder cases include those of Peter Solheim in Falmouth, Graham and Carol Fisher in Wadebridge, and Alicia Eborne near Plymouth. The extra work that has been required has brought the issue to a head.
Detectives are angry that in Devon and Cornwall they do not get special discretionary payments of about £1,000 or more, which other forces give to CID officers.
Forensic investigators are also threatening to refuse out-of-hours calls because of the workload.
Roy Farmer of the Police Federation said: "What is bothering them is the abuse some feel they are put under. Their work-life balance is totally out of sync with what it should be.
"It must apply to police as much as every other part of society."
Senior officers now propose a solution of using rotas to keep one detective on standby overnight.
But Brian Williams, a retired sergeant with 30 years experience, said that would further stretch resources.
He said: "That might be counterproductive because he might be on for a night and then not needed.
"He might be better suited to do something else at some other time, or it's a wasted resource."
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Stowe said: "Since November last year, we've had 17 murders - twice the usual rate.
"We've charged or convicted people in 14 of them. That is tremendous success from the officers involved - but there has been a price of very long hours.
"Work-life balance is the issue. But throwing more money at it does not work because it doesn't stop the phone ringing in the middle of the night.
"The solution has to be changing how we work. But doing that in a huge geographical area like Devon and Cornwall is a huge challenge."