Sanford law enforcement officials spoke to reporters on Friday after jurors left the courtroom to deliberate a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Reporters learned Sanford police had training through the Justice Department regarding “biased base policing and ethics.”
Breitbart News’ Ben Shapiro reported on Wednesday the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security are preparing for possible riots depending upon the outcome of the Zimmerman trial. Sanford’s Police Chief Cecil Smith told Shapiro the DOJ’s Community Relations Service regional director Thomas Battles is working with the Sanford Police Department. Smith also told reporters on Friday how long the Sanford PD has been working with community leaders and the Justice Department to improve itself.
“Fifteen months ago 30,000 people showed up here and during that same time they requested that several things take place,” Smith said “They wanted an investigation. They asked for an arrest. They asked for charges to be made. They asked for a trial. Each of those things have taken place.”
“Additionally, they asked for an investigation into the police department and they asked for a review of the things that have taken place in the police department through the Department of Justice,” he continued. “Each of those things have taken place.”
Smith was brought in as chief of Sanford’s police department after Bill Lee was fired from the position. City Manager Norton Bonaparte offered Smith the job in February. The Orlando Sentinel reported Smith was hired to help “inspire the department’s 132 sworn officers to excellent service and to heal wounds created by a history of racially charged encounters between police and the black community.” Lee told media outlets recently that outside forces took the Zimmerman investigation away from him.
“It was (relayed) to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn’t care if it got dismissed later,” Lee said. “You don’t do that.”
Smith told reporters at the Seminole County courthouse, “Training has been done with law enforcement through the Department of Justice within the police department to talk about issues on biased base policing and ethics.” He explained, “We went out into the community and talked–spoke to people about what their issues were by knocking on their doors and introducing ourselves to say ‘let’s see how we can improve the relationship between the police department and the community.'”
Sanford Sheriff Donald Eslinger’s remarks were cautionary instructions to residents, businesses, and visitors in Sanford for the period of time after the verdict is revealed.
In 15 days this jury has heard from witnesses. They have viewed evidence. They learned the facts. They’ve been instructed of the laws that apply and now they are deliberating. And soon, hopefully, they will issue a verdict. As Americans, we entrust our fellow citizens to this solemn duty. In exchange, we the public respect and accept their decision.
Eslinger went further, explaining, “We have every expectation upon the announcement of this verdict that the community and its visitors will continue to act peacefully. Please be assured that our office has been working with other law enforcement agencies and the Sanford Police Department to ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors here.”
“We encourage businesses to not disrupt operations. We encourage all residents to live their lives normally,” he reassured.