Staged rise in police numbers

TASMANIA Police will have to wait two years to start receiving the bulk of funding for a promised 108 extra officers, the budget has revealed. 

The budget allocates an additional $33.5 million over four years to increase police numbers to 1228 –  a promise made before the election.  

Only $3.39 million of that  will flow this year, with another $6.71 million in 2014-15 and the rest to come in the final two budget years.

This year’s budget of $203 million is an increase of $5 million on Labor’s spend, with plans afoot to increase it by 10 per cent over the next four years. 

Despite the increase in frontline police funding, the Department of Police and Emergency Management will need to find $42.2 million in savings over the next four years, starting with $7.2 million this year. 

Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the police budget should appease the vocal police union, which rang out a warning over impending cuts a day before the budget.

The funding for frontline services will see the restoring of the Public Order Response Team and the serious  organised crime squad, including a cold case unit. 

‘‘We firmly believe that more police on the beat will lead to better outcomes in our communities and increased public safety,’’ Mr Gutwein said in his first budget speech.

The budget did not detail exactly how the $42.2 million in spending cuts would be achieved, but the government is keen to stress that it will be in the department’s ‘‘back office’’ operations.  

The proposed 12-month pay freeze for police officers and a partial merger of the State Emergency Service with the Tasmania Fire Service  will also contribute to the savings.  

Other spending initiatives include plans to replace the three dispatch systems within police, the fire service and Ambulance Tasmania with a computer system. No funds were in the budget for this, with only a business case currently in the works.

Up to $250,000 a year will be available for PCYCs, which will need to apply for the funds. 

As previously announced, $500,000 has been allocated this year to kick off the replacement for the PV Fortescue large police boat.  

The money will be used for a scoping study and to begin the procurement process, with $4.5 million in next year’s estimates to buy the vessel. 

Police Minister Rene Hidding said the new boat would be capable of operating 200 nautical miles off the coast to ‘‘help protect life at sea and safeguard our fisheries’’.

‘‘We want Tasmania Police to be recognised as the best law enforcement service in the country,’’ he said.

The budget also contained $25,000 for Crime Stoppers Tasmania to assist in preparing a business case for the introduction of online reporting of crime. 

One revenue raiser will see nearly $290,000 collected over four years as board payments from  recruits at the Police Academy at  Rokeby. 

The Police Association of Tasmania declined to comment last night, saying it would make a statement after analysing the budget. 


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