New Sanford Police Chief Sworn In One Year After Trayvon Martin’s Death
(SANFORD, Fla.) — A new police chief was sworn in Monday in the city of Sanford, Fla., where one year ago teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. A national backlash following the shooting led to the firing of the former chief of police, Bill Lee.
Last year during a heated special meeting regarding the death of the unarmed teen, who was shot and killed by the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman — who’s been charged with murder — Sanford city commissioners conducted a vote of no confidence against Lee. Three of five commissioners voted against the embattled police chief.
One commissioner demanded that Lee resign.
“The unknown in a tragedy will make the heart do crazy things, and we haven’t done a good job of getting out in front of that,” said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett after last year’s vote by city commissioners. “I have confidence in him in a lot of ways, and don’t have confidence in him in some ways.”
The vote of “no confidence” came after Triplett was forced to answer some tough questions from neighborhood residents and the media, during an NAACP meeting aimed at addressing allegations of police misconduct in the community.
Lee offered his resignation the following month, but the city council refused to accept it.
Martin’s family released a statement at the time, seeming to object to the city council’s action.
“Sanford residents deserve quality leadership in law enforcement who will handle investigations fairly for all people,” the family said. “If Chief Bill Lee recognized that his resignation would help start the healing process in Sanford, city leadership should have accepted it in an effort to move the city forward.”
Lee was fired in June 2012.
“After much thoughtful discussion and deep consideration for the issues facing the city of Sanford, I have determined the police chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community,” said City Manager Norton Bonaparte in a news release last June.
“We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support. I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city.”
Now that new Police Chief Cecil Smith’s post has been made official, he says he hopes the community will be able to rebuild.
“It’s a matter of healing the community and making sure that a year from now, which will be two years passed that we’ve memorialized the situation, and that [sic] we have people in place making sure people are moving forward,” he said Monday.
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