Speaking at the annual Police Federation conference in Bournemouth, the Minister was jeered as she said changes to pay and conditions were reforms which “hard-working police officers should welcome”.
Mrs May was further booed when she told the 1,200-strong audience they should stop pretending the police were being picked on.
Several officers called for her to resign, while others shouted that she was corrupt.
Simon Payne, of Warwickshire Police Federation, said: “Home Secretary, you may not like this, but we no longer trust you in the police service. Full stop. End of story.”
The comments came after Mrs May spent almost two hours listening to officers’ concerns and answering questions - but she left to a chorus of boos and shouts of “resign” when host John Stapleton asked what she could do to win back that trust.
Mrs May said later: “I can only tell them as it is and not as they would like to hear it from me.
“I have to be honest with them about the financial situation, I have to be honest with them about the Government’s desire for reform, and I have been.
“This is a deal. There will be more accountability through police and crime commissioners, but we will free you up to do your job. We’re delivering on that.”
The officers’ concerns come after Mrs May tasked former rail regulator Tom Winsor with carrying out the most wide-ranging review of police pay and conditions in 30 years.
His proposals include annual fitness tests, with those who repeatedly fail at risk of being docked pay or sacked for unsatisfactory performance, and recommendations Chief Constables be permitted to make officers redundant if budget cuts are needed. It came in the wake of forces being asked to make a 20 per cent cut in policing budgets.
Earlier, the crowd erupted when the federation’s chairman Paul McKeever mocked Mrs May.
When no-one moved after he asked anyone who thought Mr Winsor’s review was independent to put their hand up, he addressed the Home Secretary, saying: “I notice not even you put your hand up.”
The Minister was in combative mood, however, telling officers they should “welcome reforms to a pay system that was outdated”.
“The current system rewards time spent in the job,” she said. “It doesn’t properly reward the hardest working officers, the talented constables, the skilled sergeants, the real crime fighters.
“In the longer term, Winsor has proposed regular fitness testing; new entry requirements so forces can hire the most talented recruits; shorter pay scales so the best can progress quickly; and direct entry so experienced individuals can bring skills and experience into the senior ranks from outside.
“These are reforms that hard working police officers should welcome. You will remain the best paid of all the emergency services - and that is what you deserve to be.”
There was some positive news - the Government announced that £500,000 was to be awarded to the St Andrews Police Treatment Centre in Harrogate to improve facilities, with the same level of funding going to the Police Rehabilitation Centre at Flint House, Oxfordshire.
Praising both for their “tremendous” work, Mrs May added. “This funding will help them provide the very best facilities to give sick and injured officers the chance to return to the job they love.”
But officers lined up to air their complaints and anger over the Winsor proposals.
Steve Thornton, of the federation’s Staffordshire branch, said his force was reducing its numbers to 1,750 by 2015, taking it back to 1970s’ levels.
“Can you explain to the people of Staffordshire why they should feel safe with you in charge?” he said.
Referring to the sign on stage saying, “Cutting police by 20 per cent is criminal?”, he added: “The writing’s on the wall.”
Ken Davies, of the federation’s Cheshire branch, told Mrs May her reforms were not affordable or manageable.
He said: “You’ve taken and will take 16,000 constables away from the frontline. Officers will simply not be there the next time rioters take to the streets, as they did last summer.”