SORRENTO, LA (WAFB) - The future of law enforcement in Sorrento is uncertain. The company that insures the town is dropping its coverage citing claims history and poor hiring practices.
The police department cannot operate without it.
It appeared to be business as usual at the Sorrento Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon. But town leaders said what's happening behind closed doors is anything but.
Mayor Mike Lambert confirmed that Risk Management, the insurance company that provides liability insurance for the town, has decided to end its policy with the police department on November 19, 2013. Town leaders are not commenting on the matter but residents are not biting their tongues.
"That's sad. It really is that they don't want to cover them," Vena Rouyea said.
Residents said they can't ignore the bruises on the Sorrento Police Department. The most recent blow delivered by officer James Bell who was cited by Louisiana State Police in a traffic crash in which he was allegedly driving in excess of one hundred miles per hour down Airline Highway.
'We don't have any more money, not with all the fines and all that and lawsuits. We are broke," Buster Brown said.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that in the short term, "Be assured that your sheriff's office will be there for you if needed. In the long term, however, "my condition that if contracted, my department would be the sole and exclusive provider of law enforcement services while we are on duty."
"We have problems with them so we might as well get rid of them. Let the parish take over," Brown said.
But some said they like having a police presence in town.
"It's pretty quiet but you never know. I have children, four children, my husband works and I would definitely need protection from anyone or anything that would try to come in my house or neighborhood," Raynell Hernandez said.
"It's not like having our own cops here on duty because they've got to come all the way from Gonzales to here," Rouyea said.
Town workers say the chief is not returning their calls.
Chief Theriot tells 9News he has every intention of keeping his job, regardless of the status of the police department. He confirmed that he and the assistant chief are calling around to find another insurer for the department. He says he plans to sit down with the mayor this week to talk about possible options.
It is unclear how the town would pay for the sheriff's services.
Assistant Police Chief Rickey Smith said he is working on finding another insurance carrier for the department.
Sheriff Wiley released the following letter to the citizens of Sorrento:
Citizens of Town of Sorrento
As you probably know, for quite some time now there has been on-going concerns that have arisen regarding issues surrounding the Sorrento Police Department. Most recently, in fact yesterday, Sorrento town officials learned that Sorrento Police Department liability insurance coverage will be cancelled effective November 19, 2013.
While the future of the Sorrento Police Department lies in the hands of elected officials of the town, I want to assure you, 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.
So, in short term, be assured that your Sheriff's Office will be there for you if needed. 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.
Your elected officials, including myself, need to hear from you 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.
Sheriff Jeffrey F. Wiley