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Sanford Police Chief: We're ready for the verdict

5:08 PM, Jul 11, 2013   |    comments
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SANFORD, Fla. -- The Sanford Police Chief said Thursday the city is ready for the impending verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

Cecil Smith took over the department as part of the fallout from the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17.

Smith's predecessor, Bill Lee, was forced out as chief and accused of not doing enough to investigate Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was eventually arrested and charged with second degree murder. The verdict in his trial could come as early as Friday.

But because he wasn't immediately arrested, large protests broke out in Sanford last year, causing tension and an even deeper racial divide.

Sanford is a city with longstanding racial tension dating back to the days of Jackie Robinson.

Once Smith took over, though, he made it a priority to ease those tensions and build a better relationship between the community and the police department.

One way he is doing that is through what he calls 'neighborhood walk and talks.'

Almost every Thursday, Smith picks a part of Sanford and walks through it while knocking on doors and greeting people out on the street.

It is not uncommon for him and other officers to hand out business cards to encourage a stronger flow of communication about whatever might be concerning residents.

Smith told First Coast News that is a departure from how it used to be.

"That gap had widened so much, you know, police officers would drive by and there would be instead of a wave, there'd be a single finger wave. Now the officers are being much more engaging. They're leaving their business cards. They're leaving their telephone numbers," he said.

It is that heightened face-to-face time Smith said has helped calm down people in Sanford.

He said there isn't as much anger about Martin's death, and for that reason he does not expect anything significant to happen after the trial.

He said people have received most everything they've demanded, including an arrest, charges, an internal investigation at the department and a new police chief.

But should anything happen, Smith said the city is ready to respond.

First Coast News

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