The West

The WA Police Union has ignited law and order as an election issue by demanding both major parties commit to recruiting 800 extra officers over four years to keep pace with WA's booming population.

WAPU president George Tilbury attacked the Barnett Government yesterday for prioritising "monuments" like the stadium and Elizabeth Quay over front-line services.

The union, which represents 98.5 per cent of WA Police officers, aims to apply an unprecedented level of pre-election political pressure. It will ask every MP to indicate support for each of its 17 demands of the incoming government and will publish the results on its website.

At the top of the wish list, which the union will make public today, is the call for WA Police's authorised strength to increase by 800 officers over four years.

The recruitment drive would be over and above attrition and the Barnett Government's 2008 election promise to add 350 officers before 2014-15.

Only 180 officers have been delivered so far under that program, according to the union.

Also among the requests are for WA Police to be exempted from future "efficiency dividend" budget cuts and the public sector wages policy that bans pay rises greater than inflation unless accompanied by productivity increases.

Mr Tilbury said it cost $80,000 to recruit each officer, including training, equipment and salary at the police academy, which would amount to $64 million for 800 officers, plus ongoing wages.

He acknowledged there was pressure on the police budget but claimed that was a problem of the Government's own making.

"They have already cut budgets of essential services and they should not be doing that to pay for monuments and major infrastructure projects, which shouldn't all be built at once," Mr Tilbury said.

The union's pre-election submission says that WA's population is increasing by 1500 per week.

"The State's population has increased almost 24 per cent between June 2003 and 2012, compared with 16.3 per cent for full-time police," it says.

The submission says WA Police's operational strength of 5634 amounts to one officer for every 429 citizens - a ratio inferior to South Australia (364) and the NT (205), both of which are smaller.

Police Minister Liza Harvey said the Government would outline its position on the demands during the election campaign.

"The WA Police budget has increased by 27 per cent, or almost $240 million, during the Liberal- Nationals Government's term in office," she said.

"Over that same period, overall crime has dropped by 9 per cent, and public violence offences have declined by 15 per cent."

Shadow police minister Michelle Roberts said Labor would respond before the union's nominated deadline in mid-February.

The West Australian

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