Rank-and-file police officers today accused Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of "failing to fight our corner in Government".
The attack came after they lost a High Court battle against Ms Smith's refusal to award them a recommended 2.5% pay increase in full.
Police Federation lawyers attacked the Redditch MP in court for approaching police pay "with a closed mind". They argued that she was complying with "Treasury diktat" when last December she shaved off three months worth of the recommended increase by refusing to backdate it to September, effectively reducing the award to 1.9%.
The decision - which applies to officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not Scotland - results in a £200 loss in average pay in the current pay year.
Today two senior judges acknowledged that police officers were "in a difficult position" over pay and could not strike. They said the Home Secretary's decision had "caused widespread dismay and even anger amongst police officers".
But they ruled Ms Smith had not acted beyond her powers or in any other way acted unlawfully. Any change would have to come through Parliament.
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales and chairman of the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board, later said rank-and-file officers were "extremely disappointed".
He said: "We did not take the decision to bring this matter to court lightly, but the failure of the Home Secretary to fight our corner in Government and her unwillingness to accept and implement findings of an independent police arbitration tribunal left us with no choice."
The police were given 14 days in which to lodge notice of appeal. Ms Smith said: "I'm pleased with the court's decision that found in favour of the Government.
"This was a difficult decision but one I stand by. It was important to ensure that pay settlements are affordable and consistent with Government pay policy in the interests of keeping the cost of living under control for families across the country."
The judicial review application was brought by Police Federation general secretary John Francis and the staff side of the Police Negotiating Board (PNB).
They contended that police forces around the country had a "legitimate expectation" that they would receive the full 2.5% increase recommended by the Police Appeal Tribunal (PAT).
At stake was the "morale and confidence of the police in the statutory procedures for determining their pay," their lawyers argued at a hearing in April that led to today's ruling.
Ms Smith had failed to recognise the special and unique position of the police and the restrictions on their freedom of action, including the right to strike, it was argued.
Refusing to intervene, Lord Justice Keene, sitting with Mr Justice Treacy, said: "One can readily appreciate that police officers are in a difficult position over pay. They are denied the right to strike.
"In its place is put negotiating and arbitration machinery, but the outcome of those processes is not binding on the eventual decision maker, the Home Secretary.
"Whether that is a satisfactory situation is not a matter for this court. It is embodied in the current statutory provisions, and if there is to be any change, it would have to come through legislation.
"None of the attempts of the claimants to demonstrate that the Home Secretary has acted ultra vires (beyond her powers) or otherwise unlawfully in making her decision of December 6 2007 succeeds, for the reasons I have set out."
The judge said the only legitimate expectation the police had - "that the Home Secretary will not lightly set aside a PNB recommendation or PAT award, but will only do so for good reasons" - had not been frustrated.
He ruled: "She had reasons which she was entitled to regard as being of greater weight than the PAT award, and she explained those reasons with sufficient clarity.
"It would follow that I refuse this application for judicial review." Mr Justice Treacy agreed.
The Home Secretary told the House of Commons on December 6 that she had decided to stage the award "in the interests of affordability and government policy on public sector pay".
She said: "Staging will mean that around £40m extra will be available in 2007/08 to invest in the provision of policing services to the public."
Her decision provoked a massive police protest in January this year, in which an estimated 22,500 officers marched in central London.
At the annual conference of the Police Federation in May, retiring chairman Jan Berry accused the Home Secretary of "betraying the police service" and accused her of making "a monumental mistake".
Today her successor Mr McKeever said: "Without the industrial rights enjoyed by other workers, we had no other method of protesting and challenging the decision.
"We are extremely disappointed with the decision of the court, but we take heart that we have won the moral case.
"This has been demonstrated by the tremendous support shown by the public and politicians of all political parties who have voiced their anger and concern at the way this Government has treated police officers across the UK."