Gardaí bought houses based on "inflated" earnings due to overtime during the boom years, and were left facing hardship when this work dried up in the crash, their main representative body has claimed.
But the Garda Representative Association also said mortgage lending criteria has "tightened severely" while members have also now been badly hit by hikes in rent of up to 19pc in areas within driving distance of major cities.
It made the arguments in a document to the new body advising the government on its pay policy, the Public Service Pay Commission.
The Garda association wants all of the pay cuts imposed on its members during the financial crisis refunded and their members' pensions untouched.
"Between the years 2000 and 2008, the force was to a considerable degree run on overtime," said the submission. "Gardaí bought houses and entered commitments based on these inflated earnings."
It said a drastic reduction in overtime in the years from 2008 to last year - of approximately 60pc - "exasperated the financial hardship of gardaí".
The association said the Central Statistics Office calculated that the cost of living rose by 0.5pc between December 2008 and May last year.
"The Consumer Price Index understates the experience of many gardaí," it said. "Rents in the major centres of population are rising and mortgage lending criteria has tightened severely."
It said house price inflation in Dublin rose to 4.6pc in the first half of last year.
It said gardaí must have their own transport, because they could not rely on public transport because their shift work ends at 4am.
In the document, it estimated that gardaí delivered €152m in productivity savings since "austerity" hit in 2008.
The submission said that gardaí had an increased workload due to reduced resources and a steady rise in population, while training had almost stopped.
It noted that its members were working 15 extra hours at no extra cost and Garda productivity increased by 16pc between 2008 and 2015. It estimated that an extra 2,078 gardaí would have been required to maintain the same density of gardaí per head of the population as existed in 2008. However, staff numbers fell by 112 and a sharp increase in retirements is expected.
However, gardaí benefited from a €50m deal that has pushed up their pay by around €4,000 each after threatening to go on strike last November.
Recent CSO figures also showed they are among the highest earners in the public sector. In addition, independent consultant John Horgan estimated their pensions are worth up to €40,000 on top of pay.
In a separate submission to the pay commission, the association said life expectancy and well-being must be properly accounted for in any analysis of the value of pensions.
It said gardaí are unique in the dangers they are exposed to. The nearest comparable public sector workers are prison officers, firefighters or paramedics. It said a chief fire officer provides risk management for firefighters, paramedics are not in confrontational situations as much as gardaí and prison officers largely work in "controlled environments".