Sorrento leaders scramble to find solution to impending loss of police protection

Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - 5:04am

The town of Sorrento has less than two weeks to either buy a new insurance policy, or find a new agency to provide police protection for its residents.

Risk Management, the company that holds Sorrento's insurance policies, told the town it will drop its coverage of the police department at midnight on November 19. The department has a history of problems, with the latest being an officer who drove beyond the speed limit hundreds of times.

"Officers of the Sorrento Police Department have dedicated their times, talents, and services to the citizens of Sorrento, tirelessly," assistant chief of police Ricky Smith told the mayor and council Tuesday night.

When the insurance policy ends, officers will no longer be able to patrol the town or respond to emergencies.

"It will put the officers personally liable and at risk. Them, as well as the town," Smith stated. "And simply, to do so would be irresponsible and reprehensible."

Sorrento has already started the process of finding a new insurance company. Mayor Mike Lambert and the police department sent applications to seven different insurers, but Mayor Lambert doubts that will work.

"I think it's gonna be very expensive, if we do find insurance," he predicted. "If we do."

The easiest solution would be for Sorrento to sign a contract with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office. But Chief Earl Theriot has to approve that, and there is nothing to suggest he will. If not, on November 19, Sorrento will have to lay off its police officers, bringing a new set of problems.

"If he does not make the recommendation, then you're looking at going and talking about unemployment (benefits)," said council member Randy Anny. "You're also talking about still paying your clerks, you still have to pay the assistant chief, and now you have to pay another entity."

In a separate financial report during Tuesday's meeting, the council learned that Sorrento is on budget for the current fiscal year. But if it runs a deficit of five percent or more, it has to formally amend the budget. At this point, it remains too early to know how much a new insurance policy would cost, or how much the sheriff's office would charge for a long-term services agreement.

Another option is for Sorrento to find a new carrier for all of its insurance policies, with the police coverage included in that bundle.

"If you're gonna shop insurance, all of us in here know that you're not going to shop your vehicle and your wife's vehicle, get them separately," Anny argued. "You shop everything together." 

Of the seven insurance companies Sorrento reached out to, only one has responded. Mayor Lambert said he got a rejection notice from them Tuesday afternoon.

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