Shortly after the observance of the first anniversary of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed teenager by a white neighborhood watch volunteer, the city where he was killed is preparing for a Black police chief.
Cecil Smith, a 25-year Elgin, Ill. police veteran, will be taking the reins April 1, 14 months after the shooting, replacing Bill Lee who was fired in June 2012 during the furor that occurred after George Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after admitting shooting and killing the unarmed teenager in a scuffle.
As hundreds gathered in New York along with Martin’s family for a vigil of the shooting, an announcement was made by the Sanford Police Department that Smith had been hired.
Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder. His trial is to begin in June.
Lee sparked outrage from people across the country when he contended in the shooting’s immediate aftermath that Zimmerman’s actions were covered by Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” which permits lethal force in self-defense.
“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 Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte in a statement. “We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support.”
While Smith claims it is a bit “heart-wrenching” to leave Elgin after devoting so many years to their police force, he decided to nevertheless formally accept the new position.
“There has been a great deal of just racial distrust itself in the community,” said Smith. “Because it happened, now we have to make sure it never happens again… I can’t tell you what I plan to do until I get my feet on the ground here.”
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