The police need to have the legal powers to take "robust action against criminals", the Home Secretary has said.
In a speech in central London, Theresa May said: "They also need strong leaders - single-minded crimefighters who get to the top and measure their own performance on nothing but taking the fight to lawbreakers.
"I want police officers to hear this message loud and clear: as long as you act within reason and the law, I will never damn you if you do."
Mrs May praised officers who put themselves in harm's way during the riots, saying everyone owed them "a debt of gratitude".
She also said that new curfew powers for police need to be considered in the wake of the riots which rocked England, adding that the Home Office is discussing how to give forces the tools they need to tackle future disturbances.
The Home Secretary added that controversial proposals to replace police authorities with elected police and crime commissioners from next year, and the introduction of a new National Crime Agency, were now more important than ever.
She rejected calls from senior officers to reconsider the Government's 20% cuts to police budgets in the wake of the riots, saying the disturbances of the past 10 days showed the reforms were now more urgent than ever.
"I am clear that, even at the end of this spending period, forces will still have the resources to deploy officers in the same numbers we have seen in the last week," she said. "It's clear to me that we can improve the visibility and availability of the police to the public. It's more important than ever that we do so, because we are asking the police to fight crime on a tighter budget."
Mrs May's defence of the Government's budget cuts comes after Prime Minister David Cameron also rejected calls from senior officers and Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson for a rethink, insisting that the reforms would reduce bureaucracy and allow a greater "police presence" on the streets.
Labour leader Ed Miliband attacked Mr Cameron and Mrs May on Monday for apparently claiming credit for tougher policing as police forces across the country flooded trouble-hit streets with specialist officers.