Sanford police department swears in new, African-American chief

VIDEO - A new era for the Sanford Police Department began Monday as Cecil Smith is sworn in as police chief...

WESH – A new era for the Sanford Police Department began Monday as Cecil Smith was sworn in as police chief.

Smith replaces former Chief Bill Lee, who was let go last spring following the Trayvon Martin shooting investigation.

Smith said he understands the job he accepted comes with enormous responsibility.

He won’t just command Sanford’s police force, he is be expected to improve the overall relationship between police and the people they’re sworn to protect.

“I can’t tolerate racism within the police department.  I can’t tolerate people being harassed by police officers,” Smith said.

The new chief plans to build community and bring the people of Sanford together.

“Any chief needs to set a tone and a direction for the police department.  I can’t attest to the things that happened prior to me being here.  There are things I’m going to have to deal with at some point,” Smith said.

“Seems he’s ready to move us in the right direction,” said longtime NAACP leader Turner Clayton.  “They’ve been divided so long, the morale has been down for so long, I hope he can get in there, improve the morale and get the department moving in the right direction.”

Smith said he hopes he can stress integrity, trust and professionalism, while at the same time making the streets of Sanford as safe as possible.

The 51-year-old is a 25-year law enforcement veteran from Egin, Ill., where he was deputy chief of police.

He was chosen from 76 applicants, and will lead a force of 132 officers for a reported salary of $114,757.