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Police Commissioner Attempts to Terminate his Assistant Commissioner

Aug. 28, 2006 – James McCall's tenure as the assistant police commissioner of the V.I. Police Department could end by Oct. 31, despite his contract having been renewed in March for two additional years.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, while serving as acting governor, signed the two-year contract renewal at the behest of Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, with strong support from both the Police Benevolent Association and the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union. (See "James McCall to Continue As Assistant Commissioner").
The sudden termination of the contract reportedly came early last week at the request of Police Commissioner Elton Lewis, who sent a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms saying McCall's services were no longer needed in the territory.
McCall, an agent with ATF, is on loan to the VIPD, where he has served since 2004. He is based on St. Thomas.
One union official on St. Thomas has suggested that Lewis' action was retaliatory in nature given the support McCall has garnered from the police unions.
The agreement that places McCall in the territory was part of the Intra-Government Personnel Act of 1970. Former Police Commissioner Ramon Davila served under a similar agreement in the Schneider Administration.
Since last week, Lewis' spokeswoman Shawna Richards has referred to the reports of McCall's contract termination as rumors and speculation and said she was "unsure where those rumors started."
On Monday evening, WVWI Radio One quoted Assistant ATF Director Larry Ford in Washington as saying that "after several years in that position, with an agreement from the commissioner's office, ATF has seen it fit to reassign McCall to bureau headquarters effective October 2006."
Lt. Joseph Gumbs, LESU vice president, said that the developments come "as no surprise–as Commissioner Lewis is accustomed to making decisions for emotional and personal reasons."
Gumbs said the widespread support for McCall in both unions (PBA and LESU) has probably "left Commissioner Lewis embarrassed." Gumbs said his union plans to "strongly protest this to the governor."
Other officials in both the Justice Department and the VIPD, speaking on condition of anonymity, have expressed disappointment at the prospect of McCall's departure. "He's the only person I could talk to," one said, adding that McCall was accountable and available not only to his colleagues, but also to crime victims and their families.
Another commented about the aid that McCall had garnered for the territory because of his connections with the federal agency: "Without him we would have been without a whole bunch of federal aid."
Gumbs said that he called a radio talk show Saturday, and that when questioned, Lt. Gov. Richards admitted that he was unaware of any changes in McCall's tenure with the VIPD.
James O'Bryan Jr., spokesman for the governor, confirmed Monday night that the governor was not aware of Lewis' action until Monday afternoon. O'Bryan indicated that McCall's termination was far from a done deal.
"The governor was made aware of it this afternoon," he said, adding that nothing was going to happen until "the governor has made a determination" in the matter.
Late Monday evening, Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said he has "no official word on McCall; and until we can get that information, we have to reserve comment." Lewis did not return a phone call made about the matter.
When contacted, McCall said he didn't want to comment on the matter.

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