Sorrento hires 2 new police officers

Council has not acted on vacant assistant chief post

The shorthanded Sorrento Police Department will get some much-needed help soon.

The Town Council unanimously approved during a special meeting Friday morning the hiring of two new police officers. Councilmen Randy Anny, Marvin Martin, Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair and John Wright approved the hirings. Councilman Jason Adams did not attend the meeting.

James Bell, who Police Chief Earl Theriot said had worked previously for the Scott Police Department, and former Lutcher police Officer Lyndell Augillard both were hired to join the Sorrento Police Department.

The new additions give Theriot six full-time officers, though two of them recently have missed work due to illness and hospitalization. Three of the six officers also have threatened to sue both town government and the Police Department over alleged harassment and retaliation tactics taken by Theriot.

In August, the council fired former Assistant Police Chief Billy Ballard following an internal investigation, and another officer, Cory Prine, was dismissed after violating the department’s policy for using Taser stun guns.

The council has yet to replace Ballard as assistant chief, delaying a vote earlier this month that would have promoted Officer Ricky Smith to that position.

Friday’s two hirings, though unanimous, weren’t without controversy.

Theriot recommended that the council hire Bell, who he said has “a lot of knowledge (and) a lot background” in police work. However, Anny said he would prefer that the council hire Augillard immediately and wait to hire Bell until next month.

The two candidates were among nine recommended to the council by Theriot.

The chief, however, said Augillard hadn’t passed a psychological test required by the Police Department’s insurance company to see if he is capable of carrying a firearm and serving as a police officer. Once Augillard passes that test, he can begin patrolling.

The council ultimately decided to hire both officers, giving Bell the opportunity to begin working with the department immediately. Augillard will join the department if he passes the psychological evaluation.