POLICE numbers are shaping up to be a key election issue after the state opposition announced another law and order policy, bringing extra police numbers under a Liberal government up to 37.
The Liberal Party announced yesterday it would rebuild the disbanded public order response teams to a statewide force of 47 if elected, undoing a decision by Tasmania Police last year to combine the shrunken PORTs with the traffic division to create Road and Public Order Services.
The merged unit was one of a number of changes made to meet more than $16million in budget cuts and bring police numbers down from pre-2011 numbers of 1228 to an agreed establishment force of 1120.
There are now 1094 police officers, plus about 50 recruits who will begin hitting the streets in June.
The number of public place assaults in the 12 months to October 30 this year was up 10 per cent on last year, with 270 offences recorded, but still below the three- year average of 288 and the target maximum of 330.
Opposition police spokeswoman Elise Archer said rebuilding the unit would mean the addition of 23 specialised officers and cost $7million over four years.
It's the third significant law and order announcement the opposition has made after establishing a 14-person serious and major crimes squad and continued funding to youth rehabilitation program U-Turn, and brings its extra anti-crime spending commitments to $12.2million over four years.
Ms Archer said the extra spending would be funded out of $500million in savings identified in the state budget.
But the government says this savings figure is unsubstantiated and would require significant and as yet unidentified cuts.
Police Minister David O'Byrne has accused the opposition of going on a "pre-election spend-a- thon" and warned that it would not be able to follow through with such promises if it formed government.
Police Association president Pat Allen and Tasmanian Hospitality Association chief executive Steve Old both endorsed the opposition policy yesterday, saying PORT had been instrumental in reducing alcohol-fuelled violence in Tasmania and that bad behaviour was starting to creep back.