Police Chief aims to restore department’s credibility after controversy
Replacing former Chief Bill Lee, who was let go in the fallout from the Trayvon Martin shooting investigation, Cecil Smith, the new police chief of Sanford, Fla., hopes to reestablish the credibility of his department, according to local TV station WESH Orlando.
Martin, an unarmed teenager, was allegedly shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman last spring. Sanford’s police force was heavily criticized for its management of the case, eventually leading to Lee’s dismissal.
Hopes are high, though, for Chief Smith to renew the community’s trust in the Sanford Police Department.
According to the WESH report, Smith said he understands his new role comes with tremendous responsibility. He knows he will be expected to improve the relationship between his department and the citizens they are sworn to protect.
“I can’t tolerate racism within the police department. I can’t tolerate people being harassed by police officers,” Smith told WESH.
Smith went on to stress he will emphasize integrity, trust and professionalism with his officers while maintaining safety on the streets Sanford.
City Manager Norton Bonaparte told the Orlando Sentinel he thinks Smith is the perfect candidate for the position. "What we really need right now is a police chief who not only has the confidence of the police officers, but one who has an excellent rapport with the community," Bonaparte said. "And I got the sense that [Smith] was extremely good at that, at his ability with building relationships."
NAACP leader Turner Clayton told WESH he is happy to see Smith in the position. “Seems he’s ready to move us in the right direction. They’ve been divided so long, the morale has been down for so long, I hope he can get in there, improve the morale and get the department moving in the right direction,” he said.
Smith, one of five candidates considered for the position out of 76 original applicants, was offered an annual salary of $110,469, according to the Sentinel.
Zimmerman, who waived his right on Tuesday to a hearing under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, will most likely be headed to trial this summer according to an ABC World News report.
Smith and his department are prepared to maintain public safety during that time. According to a statement sent by Captain James McAuliffe, the city has prepared for the upcoming trial by partnering with numerous county and state law enforcement and pubic safety departments to maintain levels of services within the city and surrounding area. According to the statement, the Sanford Police Department recognizes the magnitude of the trial, and maintains the community will be safe for the duration of the event.
Though called repeatedly for comment, Smith did not respond to American City & County prior to deadline.