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WA Police will have to “aggressively” recruit officers from overseas to meet the Barnett Government’s election promise of employing 500 more police officers by 2014, a parliamentary committee was told today.

Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said the force was planning to hire officers who had already been trained in other countries such as the UK, to avoid the costly process of training fresh recruits in WA.

“I am very confident that we can go overseas to recruit and we spend 13 weeks instead of 27 weeks training police officers.”

He said this would allow the police to hire the other 170 police officers required to meet the election commitment by June 2014, as well as replacing another 250 officers who are expected to retire over the same period.

But he has also asked Police Minister Liza Harvey to exempt the police force from the hiring freeze that has been placed on public sector jobs.

“The minister has asked us to provide a letter to her as to what options we have for meeting the Government’s election commitment of the extra 500 police.

“One option is to get an exemption from the FTE cap.”

Mr O’Callaghan told the committee departmental heads had come up with several ways to meet $37 million in budget cuts, including deferring the recruitment of 70 police officers and 30 public servants until next year.

Police officers would be forced to go on leave and communication and travel costs would be cut, despite an increasing demand on police services.

“Last year we took 1.1 million calls for assistance at the police assistance centre, which is a seven per cent increase on the previous year and we expect that to ramp up to something like 1.8 million by about 2015,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

WA Police Union president George Tilbury said the Government should exclude the police from any budget cuts as well as the hiring freeze.

“The demand on policing services continues to increase…you’ve got over 1000 people being added to the population in WA every week.

“The Government clearly has their priorities wrong when they are cutting essential services.”