Police Officer James Bell of the Sorrento, LA Police Department has found himself in some hot water, but apparently, this town has difficulty reining in cops who drive recklessly.
Officer James Bell recently wrecked his tax-subsidized patrol car in a crash exceeding 100 miles per hour. This prompted investigators to review the GPS recorder outfitted in the vehicle to review his driving behavior. The GPS unit revealed hundreds of excessive speeding incidents.
On the afternoon of Sept. 2, the day of the crash, Bell’s cruiser had repeatedly reached high rates of speed –109 and 106 miles per hour — in separate instances. And one could excuse that as part of the job... But, from July 1 to September 3 — Bell drove his police vehicle more than 75 miles per hour a total of 737 times, oftentimes outside of town limits, outside his jurisdiction, local media reported after seeing the GPS records.
And now, some citizens want him to turn over his badge. Officer James Bell joined the ranks of the Sorrento Police Department last December. The September 2nd pursuit ended when the officer slammed on his brakes, lost control of his police cruiser and hit another car.
"The officer was just driving down the road at this crazy rate of speed," said Andre Gauthier, attorney for the victim. “You’re driving like that in areas outside of your jurisdiction, surely you’re not chasing people outside of your jurisdiction,” said Gauthier.
Sorrento Police Chief Earl Theroit gave Officer Bell a written reprimand and reportedly dusted his hands of the matter. He refused to put Bell on administrative leave because he “doesn’t have the manpower.”
In the same two months, Officer Bell issued more than 300 speeding tickets. Bell’s apparent role on the 5-man department is revenue generation, and apparently, the town can’t afford to have one less tax-collection unit on the roads of the 1,500-resident town, no matter how much of a threat he is to public safety.
Chief Theroit reviewed the crash report and the issue was brought before the town council Oct 16th to consider additional disciplinary action.
Sorrento, LA is about 30 miles south of Baton Rouge, with a population of about 1,500. The Creole newspaper, which covered the October town council meeting, shows there was little remorse and no corrective measure from Police Chief Theroit.
Here you can read the questions from the town council and the obstinate, obstructive answers from the Sorrento police chief:
Sorrento town council meeting.
The Creole's editor in chief, Charlotte Guedry, confirms that since the mid-October town council meeting no fine or disciplinary action of any kind has been rendered against Officer James Bell. So for now, Officer Bell remains free to write more tickets and drive like a public menace if he so chooses.
What lesson can we learn from this? If you're driving in a vicinity south of Baton Rouge be on the alert to stay far from Sorrento because they're eager to write you a ticket and they'll do that without letting public safety stand in the way.