LA: Sorrento police chief apologizes for racial slur


The Sorrento Police Department has been at the center of several investigations that have come before the town council. A long list of allegations of wrong-doing within the police department has landed on the desk of 23rd Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin. He said some of the complaints are more than a year old.

“Payroll fraud, use of public funds for private purposes, use of public fuel in private vehicles, things of that sort,” Babin said were some of the allegations.

The town council fired its Assistant Police Chief Billy Ballard on Tuesday. In a notice to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Mayor Wilson Longanecker Jr. lists: payroll fraud, use of public property for personal use, failure to cooperate during an investigation and failure to comply with a previous suspension as reasons for Ballard’s dismissal.

9 News obtained a questionnaire recently distributed to Sorrento police officers by town attorney, Donovan Hudson.

It asks officers if they know of incidents of:

– Improper use of personal vehicles
– On duty officers not within jurisdiction of town getting paid
– Entering improper, incorrect or fraudulent payroll information
– Improper use of town assets
– Improper use of equipment
– Any actions to cover-up investigations

Babin is tasked with finding out whether any of the complaints filed have merit.

“I have absolutely no facts to warrant any grand jury to ask for any warrants so I need somebody to investigate it.”

Babin said the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office has agreed to investigate.

“If there’s evidence that exists and we have to bring it to court we’ll have a very tough time getting a conviction. It affects public safety.”

Babin said he is not sure what is going on in the small Town of Sorrento.

“I don’t know if it’s political, one trying to one-up the other, or going through the extent of corruption that’s been alleged but we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley said his investigators met on Friday with a Sorrento employee and will continue looking into the allegations on Monday.



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Sanford police chief fired over Trayvon Martin murder

In this March 22, 2012 file photo, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee speaks to the the media during a news conference as city manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. listens at left, in Sanford Fla. Lee, who was strongly criticized for his agency’s initial investigation of Trayvon Martin’s slaying, was fired Wednesday, June 20, 2012, city officials said.

Saying he’s lost the trust of officials, a city manager fired a central Floridapolice chief who was criticized for his agency’s initial investigation of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer.Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte said in a Wednesday statement that he relieved Chief Bill Lee of duty because he “determined the Police Chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community.”

“We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support,” Bonaparte said. “I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city.”

The initial lack of an arrest following the death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.

The local prosecutor recused himself from the case, prompting Gov. Rick Scott to appoint special prosecutor Angela Corey, who charged Zimmerman in April with second-degree murder. The 17-year-old Martin was fatally shot following a Feb. 26 altercation with Zimmerman, who claims self-defense and has pleaded not guilty.

Lee took a leave of absence in March and offered his resignation in April. The city council rejected Lee’s resignation by a 3-2 vote. Several council members indicated they wanted to let a Department of Justice review of the police investigation play out before making a final decision.

In a statement, Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s parents, said the parents respected the city manager’s decision.

In May, Rick Myers took over as Sanford’s interim police chief, saying he wanted to heal the emotional wounds caused by Martin’s death. He has said he would reach out to people in Sanford who feel they’ve been ignored by the police.

Bonaparte said he had been in contact with the Police Executive Research Forum about the search for a successor to Lee.

“I believe that there are many law enforcement officials who will find accepting the opportunity to serve as Sanford’s Police Chief a welcome challenge for their careers”, the city manager said. “I expect the search for a new chief to take several months.”

Lee will get three months of severance and one week’s salary, in addition to any earned time off, under his contract.

“I wish Chief Lee all the best in his future endeavors,” Bonaparte said.

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black police chief settles racial bias suit for $545,000

Willie Dixon of the Hempstead Police Department and his wife, Pat.

Willie Dixon of the Hempstead Police Department.

A top black police chief targeted with a noose hanging in his Long Island  department’s locker room will receive $545,000 to settle a federal  discrimination lawsuit, his lawyer said Thursday.

Willie Dixon was the  first black assistant chief in the history of the Hempstead Police Department,  but was says he ws treated like a second-hand citizen.

Dixon, 62, was forced to retire at a lower rank despite being cleared of a  slew of unfounded allegations levied against him by his superior, his lawyer  Eric Sanders said.

“Unfortunately the burden of this settlement will fall on the taxpayers  instead of the people responsible,” Dixon said.

Dixon found the noose hanging from a locker room pipe near an article that  mentioned his name in 2007. The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI  investigated the incident but were unable to determine who was responsible.

Dixon claimed he suffered retaliation from the former chief for going public  about the noose incident.

A civil trial was scheduled to begin next month in Long Island Federal  Court.

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