Mayor says it's police chief's decision

DERON TALLEY @EditorDeRon

Mayor says it's police chief's decision

The Sorrento Police Department's future is up in the air right now so-to-speak with its liability coverage insurance cutoff date nearing. Police Chief of 12 years, Earl Theriot, said isn't sure as of Wednesday what will be done but he and his staff have been researching other insurance agencies that would cover the department.

"We're trying to get some insurance providers. We've been working all day long, talking to different insurance agencies that will possibly cover the town." Theriot said Wednesday in an interview with the Gonzales Weekly Citizen. "We don't have an idea yet, but we're waiting on quotes and they will be presented to the mayor and council and it'll be a decision they will have to make whether they want to accept them or not, and they decline to accept them then we don't have a choice."

The SPD is currently insured by Risk Management has five full-time employees, one full-time clerk and one part-time clerk, on staff and its insurance coverage will end on Nov. 19.

Mike Lambert, the Mayor of Sorrento, it's the chief of police's decision of how he's going to police the town of Sorrento. Lambert said Theriot is going to have to come up with a plan to protect the town of Sorrento.

"We are restricted as mayor and council of the operation of the police department," Lambert said Wednesday in an interview with the Gonzales Weekly Citizen. "We cannot get into day-to-day operations, we cannot get involved with personnel matters other than approving or disapproving hires and fires. There are certain disciplinary actions we can take on his recommendation but right now we have to await his decision for what he's going to do with his police department."

Lambert said a lot depends on what the Theriot is going to present to he and the council. He said he asked Theriot to present them a plan, short-term and long-term, of how "we're going to do this."

"The chief is looking for insurance alternatives right now and I told him he needs to present that to us so that we can plan," Lambert said. "I plan on meeting with him more so we can work out a strategy. Right now we have none.

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley released a letter to the Town of Sorrento on Tuesday assuring the residents and citizens of Sorrento that there will be "no interruption of Law Enforcement services should the town police services be curtailed or eliminated."

"In short term, be assured that your Sheriff's Office will be there for you if needed," Wiley said in the letter. "In the long term, I will expect much more discussion between myself and town officials and these discussions will involve contracts, payment of services, and lastly and most importantly my condition that if contracted, my department would be the sole and exclusive provider of Law Enforcement services while we are on duty."

In the letter, Wiley said the elected officials, including himself, need to hear from the citizens regarding this most important issue.

"Together we can rebuild this town and restore the quality of life and the pride of the Town of Sorrento that you deserve," Wiley said.

Lambert appreciated Wiley's gesture to continue the protection of Sorrento and said the town will have police protection one way or another: whether it is from SPD or APSO. However he understands Wiley's point in the long-term protection agreement.

"I think the Sheriff wants to be the sole provider of law enforcement if he does the long-term contract," Lambert said. "He doesn't want to have to answer to a chief of police, or have a chief of police coexisting if he takes over law enforcement in the town of Sorrento. In effect, he's asked basically that Earl would have to resign or work out an agreement with the sheriff that the sheriff is comfortable to provide police protection if we go that route."

There have also been reports out that singled out Sorrento Police Officer James Bell stating, "he would be put on administrative leave" for improper use of radar guns and for his "driving practices."

Theriot said Wednesday if those things were reported they were false because Bell is "still on the job."

As far as the improper use of radar guns, Theriot said each one of the officers are trained by a certified instructor and all of the equipment gets certified yearly.

However Theriot himself will be taking a leave due to a total knee replacement. His surgery is scheduled for Nov. 4 but he said his absence shouldn't affect the fate of his department.

"I'll have an assistant chief that'll still be on staff to kind of make sure everything works out properly as far as which way we're going to go," Theriot said.