Four in 10 female police officers have seriously considered quitting because of a lack of morale, much of which has focussed on the lack of provision for working mothers, a new survey has found.
Officers said a lack of opportunities for flexible working and a belief that the force does not take into account women's particular circumstances after having children had contributed to the ill-feeling among staff.
The Independent Police Commission, led by former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Stevens, has published the findings as it carries out an investigation into the future of policing.
One female officer, with 22 years of service, said: "Morale is the lowest I have ever known. The changes in our force are ill-conceived.
"I have worked in CID for over 15 years but due to lack of front-line recruitment we are having to back-fill any uniform vacancies. Do I feel my experience is valued? Absolutely not! I wish I could leave tomorrow."
Some 40% of female officers said they had given serious thought to leaving their jobs, while more than three quarters (76%) were pessimistic about the future of the police force.
Childcare was raised as a "significant" concern, while most officers said they believed the police service will be even less flexible in the future in accommodating working women.
The survey of 3,410 female police officers in England and Wales was carried out with the help of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers.
Lord Stevens was appointed to chair the independent review into the future of policing by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper last year. Its final report will be published next March.
Lord Stevens said: "We have learnt that morale is a key issue facing our police service today.
"The police service plays a key role in our society and with evidence showing that where morale is high best performance is attained, it is crucial that we give due consideration to addressing these concerns."
Jennifer Brown, a professor of criminology at the London School of Economics who carried out the survey with the help of the Police Federation, said: "The high response to the survey means that the commission is tapping into some strongly held feelings from police officers about what is happening currently to reform the police service."