With the Trayvon Martin shooting occurring last year and the racial tension that followed, the town of Sanford has lost trust in law enforcement and the community. Bruce Lee, who was the acting police chief during this incident, was fired last Fall following the controversy that arose concerning how the Sanford Police Department handled the investigation. George Zimmerman was not arrested at the time of the shooting, allowing city-wide unrest. This resulted in the trust in the community and many speculating that law enforcement was broken. Norton Bonaparte, Sanford's City Manager, said that Sanford needed a police chief that would restore trust into the residents and business owners again.
With Lee out of office, Zimmerman has been arrested and charged with second degree murder. He has not gone to trial yet, which will begin June 10th, 2013. Many Sanford residents feel that the trust and reputation of the city are suffering.
Bonaparte had good news to report on Tuesday, January 29. For the past six months, city officials, leaders and residents have been searching to fill the position of Chief of Police. This month, they talked with five finalists, and last week Bonaparte traveled to Elgin, Ill. and offered the position to Cecil Smith. Smith replied that he was "pleasantly surprised", and he will discuss this important decision with his family this week.
Cecil Smith is an outgoing, 51 year old deputy police chief in Elgin, Ill. The mayor, David Kaplan, who has known Smith for 20 years, referred to him as a "top-notch" police officer. Smith began his career in law enforcement in January 1988, where he quickly rose through the ranks. He was promoted to deputy in 2008. Elgin is a city of 110,000, which is about half the size of Sanford. Kaplan also stated that Smith was liked and trusted by the people, and that he was skilled at building relationships within the community. Bonaparte offered Smith a salary of $110,469.
Smith has been following the Martin/Zimmerman case and the response in the Sanford, and he admits that it will be a challenge, but he completely believes in sitting down with the community and working on the issues together.
One business owner, who was on the panel, stated that he thought they were all good candidates, but Smith has the outgoing personality that will connect with the community and allow it to mend. "Smith is just what Sanford needs."