Police Minister Liza Harvey has lashed Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan over public commentary regarding budget cuts, saying discussions were ongoing and nothing had been finalised.
Mr O’Callaghan was compelled to respond to questions at a parliamentary committee on Thursday on how his department would achieve the State Government’s 2 per cent efficiency dividend and enforce a hiring freeze.
He has also answered questions about the police budget from reporters at press conferences.
The two budgetary measures are expected to slash up to $37 million from the WA Police budget, which has drawn extraordinary attacks from WA Police Union members who claim they are already feeling the pinch from supervisors who have been asked to closely scrutinise overtime.
Ms Harvey told ABC she was in ongoing discussions with the Commissioner on how the savings could be achieved.
“The discussion of the detail that is going out there in the community at the moment with respect to how we are going to manage the request from treasury is not very helpful to the process,” Ms Harvey said.
Mr O’Callaghan has asked Ms Harvey to exempt WA Police from the hiring freeze. Ms Harvey said that request amounted to little more than a summary of discussions on budget cuts to date.
“I think the Commissioner has come out and spoken somewhat prematurely on this matter, this is all part of an ongoing discussion,” she said.
“These requests from treasury are made because we have to be financially responsible and the Government has to respond to the financial pressures that are placed on us.
“This is a juggling act, the police budget is a $1.17 billion budget, it has been increased by $240 million since 2008/09, and somewhere in there we are trying to find the efficiencies that have been requested of us by treasury, but we have to keep in the forefront of all of our discussions community safety and the requirement to keep all of those police officers on the beat.”
This week, frontline officers voiced their concerns through the union that the department was already struggling as a result of restrictions on overtime.
Officers claimed the restrictions had led to station closures and could compromise community safety.