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McCall Faces Tough Questions From Finance Committee

May 8, 2008 — Police Commissioner James McCall was caught in a crossfire of questions over budget and equipment issues as he testified before the Senate Committee on Finance Thursday.
The hearing in Frederiksted focused on a midyear overview of expenditures as of March 31 and the projected budget for the year. Documents showed the police department spending $24 million while being budgeted $28 million for the six-month period.
Sen. James Weber went over the figures several times and said the police department was given more than it was budgeted in the last fiscal year, but actually spent less. Weber said he would introduce legislation that would transfer money from the police department to the Department of Tourism.
Sen. Usie Richards aggressively questioned McCall about communications problems and had senate staff show a video of unused towers and equipment in Cotton Valley that appeared to be rusting.
McCall attempted to explain that that those problems predated his appointment as commissioner, but Richards cut him off, saying that he was not answering questions succinctly.
Richards asked if communication towers had been installed since he and McCall had first discussed the problem a year ago. McCall said no.
"We have officers out there who cannot communicate with each other," Richards said.
"I don't think that is necessarily true," McCall said.
Richards said he knew the company from which the police department borrowed radios during last year's Agriculture Fair.
There were areas on the island where normal signals were difficult, McCall said.
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, chairman of the committee, said that overtime is also a big issue.
In his opening statement, McCall said, "Overtime has been a concern for the department for years. With the hiring of a full-time recruiter, the re-energizing of the auxiliary force and the recent agreement by the unions to allow for recruiting out of the territory, we will start to see a positive turn in the force. While we attempt to manage the overtime expenditures, we are ever aware of the safety of our officers and the public," he added.
McCall was questioned for almost four hours. His testimony was sandwiched between testimony of the Health Department and the Department of Public Works on their budgets.
Also present were Sens. Ronald Russell and Basil Ottley.
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