Staffing issues in An Garda Síochána mean officers don't feel safe, protected or rewarded in their jobs.
That is according to a speaker at this week's Garda Representative Association (GRA) Annual Conference, which is calling for better pay and conditions for their members.
The conference heard more and more gardai are leaving the job, with 30 officers resigning since January, and more than 150 retiring in the first five months of the year.
Detective Garda Graham O'Neill said morale is on the floor in stations right across the country.
Garda O'Neill said: "There are vacancies right across our organisation, recruitment is simply plugging gaps and the reality is we're running on fumes, but we're expected to get on with it.
"How can we be expected to keep people safe if we ourselves do not feel safe, protected or rewarded for the extraordinary work we do."