The new police chief of Sanford is shaking things up nearly 2 years after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin put the Florida community in the national spotlight.
Chief Cecil Smith is banning neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns on patrol and from pursuing anyone on foot.
These changes reflect controversy over the existing guidelines in the wake of Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, being acquitted of manslaughter in the unarmed teen’s death.
“In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual,” Smith told the press. “In this new program, it clearly indicates that you will not carry a firearm when performing your duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant.”
Smith took over the role of chief back in April. He saw the existing Neighborhood Watch program as desperately in need of reform.
“There was really no accountability. There was no true recognition. There were concerns with regards to training. There were concerns with how the program was being run,” Smith said. “We put a cease to the neighborhood watch program, essentially, in the manner it was in before, and what we’re doing now is really, truly revamping the entire program, starting from scratch.”
According to local reports, the new Neighborhood Watch program will also include background checks and watchmen will appoint captains who will have more give-and-take with rank-and-file police officers.
“Neighborhood watch is a very simple organization. It’s about neighbors helping neighbors, talking to neighbors about ways to make their neighborhood safe. That’s it,” Smith said. “Again, do I think I’m going to make every person happy about our requirements that you don’t be armed? I’m not going to make everyone happy, but not everyone has to be part of the program.”