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Sanford, FL City Council Passes 'No Confidence' Vote Against Police Chief Over Trayvon Martin Case

Nothing like the rising up of viral campaigns for governments to realize that they are, in fact, answerable to the public: Chief Lee, who came on the job just 10 months ago for $102,000 a year to clean up a department tainted by racial

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Nothing like the rising up of viral campaigns for governments to realize that they are, in fact, answerable to the public:

Chief Lee, who came on the job just 10 months ago for $102,000 a year to clean up a department tainted by racial scandals, finds himself under fire in what promises to be one of the most explosive law enforcement cases of the year. For weeks, black leaders have called for the firing of Lee, a Sanford native with a three-decade career in law enforcement whose father once ran the nearby black neighborhood’s convenience store.

In a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, the Sanford City Commission gave the chief a vote of no confidence, adding to the mounting national pressure to oust him.

What began as misunderstandings, technicalities and poor word choice mushroomed into what critics are calling a deeply flawed investigation, which is now being looked at by state and federal agencies.

“I’ve never thought the chief was a racist or anything. It’s more of a lack of experience and a lack of leadership,” said Commissioner Velma Williams, who advocated that the chief resign to quell tensions before a rally next week, timed for Monday’s city commission meeting.

Mayor Jeff Triplett told reporters afterward that he voted against the chief over his management and “communication.” City manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. told reporters that he would not make a decision about the chief’s fate until he learns from an independent law enforcement agency what mistakes police might have made. This week the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched their own investigations.

While I certainly have my own opinions of the Trayvon Martin case, based on what I've read and heard, I've been loathe to convict George Zimmerman in the court of public opinion. There's no doubt in my mind that the scales of justice are weighted against minorities in this country (and Sanford had a history of racial inequality) but for me, justice for Trayvon Martin involved giving his killing the respect and due diligence of an investigation. It was inconceivable to me that even the basics of checking Zimmerman's story wasn't done and with a shrug to the ridiculous "Stand Your Ground" law (I think Martin had a better argument about feeling imminently in danger, given that he was unarmed and Zimmerman was actively pursuing him, not vice versa), Zimmerman was released.

Clearly, Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte, Jr., does not want to be accused of rushing to judgment either and will make a decision on Police Chief Bill Lee's continued employment after the federal investigation is concluded. But given the rather mind-blowing array of blown calls in the non-investigation, I'd guess that the "no confidence" vote is just the beginning of the end for Lee.

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