THE West Yorkshire Police Authority is being sued by its own officers over claims it failed to make bonus payments of up to £400,000.
The authority is facing two test cases in the High Court next month which could open the floodgates to action by thousands of officers across the country.
The officers' union, the Police Federation, is bringing the action on behalf of two Leeds constables who never received the special competency-related ``threshold pay".
If the pair are successful, a further 150 West Yorkshire officers are expected to put in claims. These could cost the authority up to £400,000 in back payments.
The claimants are mainly police constables, whose top rate salary is £31,000.
But they also include 15 sergeants, 14 detective constables, a detective sergeant and two inspectors.
Top sergeants earn nearly £35,000 a year, while some inspector's get more than £43,200.
The row centres on competency-related threshold pay, a salary bonus agreed nationally in April, 2003.
Officers who have served for 12 months at the top of the pay scale for their rank qualify for £1,000 a year on top of their salary for meeting certain standards.
About 2,000 police officers, up to the rank of chief inspector, out of a force strength of 5,635, were initially told they were entitled to the bonus. But about 300 officers were told they would not get the payments because of their attendance records.
Tom McGhie, the Police Federation's West Yorkshire chairman, said 99% of officers who had applied for the threshold bonuses had been assessed as being eligible.
But he said the force's command team had been unhappy at the number of officers who qualified.
Mr McGhie said: "They were entitled to the money and the way the force withdrew it is unlawful."
The authority's chairman, Clr Mark Burns-Williamson, said:
"The chief constable put in procedures to make sure the money was targeted at those officers who most merited the extra payment."