RANK-and-file gardai have accused the Government of "gambling with public safety" over plans to slash garda numbers by 1,000 this year.
Because of a jobs embargo there have been no new garda recruits since 2009 and the latest cut in garda numbers has been blamed on a serious shortfall in their wages budget.
Plans to cut numbers, revealed in the Irish Independent, include offering gardai the option of a three-year career break, as senior officials do not believe they can achieve enough retirements during 2013.
The unilateral decision to slash the payroll without any consultation has sent shock waves through the senior ranks.
The Government has cut the garda payroll by more than €25m, meaning there is only enough money in the Department of Justice coffers to pay about 12,500 personnel, although the current garda strength is 13,417.
Urgent talks are now being held between the garda authorities and officials from three government departments.
However, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) said it had repeatedly warned that cutting garda numbers and resources would diminish the policing service the public could expect and that in some areas it was now impossible to cover all the policing needs.
"For the past two years we have been warning the Minister for Justice that the systematic cutting of garda numbers and resources was recklessly endangering the public, but, unfortunately, the minister has closed his ears to this common sense message," said GRA general secretary PJ Stone.
"Without a risk assessment or feasibility study published to support the reduction in garda numbers, the Government continues to gamble with public safety".
Mr Stone said he did not believe An Garda Siochana has the resources to deliver the first- class service that the public deserved.
"We need garda recruitment to begin now for the force to be able to withstand the lawlessness which we warned about. The failure to recruit consistently will have long-term consequences for Ireland," he warned.
Mr Collins described the report as "extremely worrying" at a time of increased crime levels in communities across the country.