Voters will decide fate of Sorrento police department

SORRENTO, LA (WAFB) - Sorrento police cars sit behind what was their police station, in the mud rotting away.  The department, which has been shut down for a few months, had been operated by Police Chief Earl Theriot before allegations of lying to the FBI. The feds were investigating reports of inappropriate sexual conduct by Theriot involving a woman he had arrested and taken into custody. Theriot ultimately pled guilty to lying to the feds.

Back then Theriot and one other officer made up the department. The town was unable to secure insurance so Theriot and his officer did not patrol. The Sorrento mayor, some council members, and even some residents wanted Theriot to step down. When he was asked about resigning in January he was emphatic.

"Not no, but hell no. I was elected to this job and I'm going to stay on this job," Theriot said.

Now Gov. Jindal has paved the way for an election to decide the ultimate fate of the shuttered department. In the meantime, and until that election, Sheriff Jeff Wiley's deputies have been on patrol.

"This is a town of Sorrento decision. And this is one in the interim I want to be there for them," Wiley said.

Wiley says he can understand how insurance can become an issue because often times small municipal police departments get in legal trouble because of who they hire. Such was the case in Sorrento.

"It's a death spiral.  They don't have enough funding and they can't afford quality applicants so what do they get? They get rejects from other departments frankly and they come in and hire them for $12 and $15 an hour. I don't want to paint a broad brush, but that is the norm. Lawyers love it because there is so much associated litigation because of the things they do or don't do," Wiley said.

Sorrento has until July 23rd to work up the language of the issue to get it on the November ballot.

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