Sanford Police Chief Resigns Over Trayvon Martin Incident


scapegoat or sacrificial lamb?

The police chief in Sanford, Florida resigned today, after stepping down "temporarily" during the investigation of the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, which sparked national outrage.

Police in Sanford, Florida did not press charges against George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, saying they had no evidence to challenge Zimmerman's self-defense claim. Although he claimed he could not escape from Trayvon Martin when he felt his life was at risk, liberal activists and commentators were quick to blame Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law anyway. Even Florida's governor, Rick Scott, jumped on the fallacious connection.

The effect of framing the incident as indicative of liberal gun rights served to obfuscate other issues, namely, the role of law enforcement. One of Sanford's commissioners, Patty Mahany, called the police chief Bill Lee's resignation a scapegoating.  The Los Angeles Times reports:

Mahany, who had supported Lee during the political furor over his department's investigation, called the resignation a "terrible tragedy." She said she blamed civil rights activists whose protests "ruined the reputation and career of a really stellar law enforcement officer."

Lee "is nothing but a scapegoat," Mahany said. "Our police department did nothing wrong."

national news

Mahany is half right. The resignation of the police chief could be nothing more than a scapegoating if the police department's handling of Trayvon Martin's homicide is not investigated further. Although the presence of George Zimmerman's father, a retired judge, at various points in the police investigation deserves scrutiny, George Zimmerman is likely no friend of the local police department, having apparently been involved in activism aimed at Sanford's police abuses.

However, he very well may have been extended the "professional courtesy" law enforcement officers get all the time in questionable situations. The decision not to press charges despite the lead homicide investigator's recommendation bears serious scrutiny, Commissioner Mahany's unsubstantiated protestations that her town's police department did nothing wrong and the intense media focus on George Zimmerman's upcoming trial notwithstanding.

UPDATE: The Sanford City commissioners voted 3-2 to reject the police chief's resignation.

NEXT: Revolutionary Romneycare, Obama Channels His Inner Monarch, Death Race New Jersey Style: P.M. Links

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. There are very, very few people who’s job loss would count as “a terrible tragedy.”

    And none of them are cops.

    1. He can probably get a decent book deal, if he plays his cards right.

  2. This smells like scapegoating to me. I’ve read some things that indicate that under Florida law, it was perfectly appropriate to not charge Zimmerman. The indictment seems like a political stunt, intended to get Zimmerman to plead out, but with little to no chance of conviction, as Dershowitz and others have pointed out.

    Zimmerman’s story makes a lot more sense, and seems to fit the evidence better, than the stuff put out by Martin’s family attorneys, a lot of which has already been disproven by various bloggers. Odds are Martin decided to teach Zimmerman a lesson about disrespecting him and got shot after he attacked him.

    1. I keep getting Fred and Lamont confused. Which one is this about?

      1. The “G” stands for “Get the race hustlers out of here”, dummy.

    2. I still haven’t seen any evidence from the prosecution indicating Zimmerman ever should have been indicted. It certainly seems he was charged due to a.) political and media outcry, b.) the threat of mass rioting and violence if they didn’t, c.) DA reelection campaign.

      None of which are a legitimate basis to levy charges against a person who, as far as the facts released are concerned, operated within the bounds of the law.

      1. a.) political and media outcry, b.) the threat of mass rioting and violence if they didn’t,

        The riots don’t happen when someone isn’t charged, they happen when someone is charged, then acquitted.

        That way there’s a pinpoint moment when an action occurs from which can produce an outcome.

        Not charging Zimmerman would have merely caused some continuous simmering of anger, eventually dying out as an MSM story.

        1. I’m not so sure. If the state attorney had announced that she decided that no charges were warranted by the evidence, I tend to think that would’ve been enough of a trigger.

          1. Watch what happens if Zimmerman gets acquitted… The whole world is watchin’…

        2. This is what grand juries are for.

          1. And because of the political nature of the case, they avoided the grand jury for fear it would not decide to indict.

            1. Cases below capital murder rarely go to grand juries in Florida. In fact, so rarely you could say never.

              If the State Attorney believes they have a case to make all he needs to do is file an information. If the judge agrees that a case exists he will hold the defendant over for trial.

              That’s what’s happened here.

            2. That said, i agree regarding the political nature of this case.

              The Seminole State Attorney was pushed aside in favor of the special prosecutor as much to protect him from political fallout as to punish him, IMO.

              When this is over, whatever the outcome, the special prosecutor can return to Jacksonville claiming she tried to do the right thing.

      2. “c.) DA reelection campaign.”

        Doesn’t really apply. The prosecutor in this case is from a different judicial circuit. The State Attorney for the 18th circuit (Seminole and Brevard Counties) has stepped aside. The case will be heard by a judge from the 18th Circuit. It will be interesting to see if a change of venue is requested.

        And they are called State Attorneys in Florida.

        1. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Special Prosecutor. The State Attorney who charged Casey Anthony resigned the day she was acquitted – getting little attention in the hoopla over the verdict.

          1. The Casey Anthony prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Jeff Ashton, retired after that trial. It probably didn’t have much to do with that particular trial; there was pretty much no political fallout from the Casey Anthony case. Also note, he was an Assistant State Attorney, IOW, a salaried staff position.

            His boss, Orange-Osceola Sate Attorney, Lawson Lamar is the State Attorney. That is the guy who has to go to the voters. And for one reason or another those voters have returned him over and over for about the last thirty years.

      3. Name one threat of mass rioting and violence. And no, the NBPP does not count because 9 guys in an apartment is not mass rioting.

          1. Random idiots on Twitter is your evidence? That’s even less credible than “commenters on a blog”. Besides, over half those tweets are assumptions that others will riot and the rest are as credible as my friend’s dad that said he’s going to start “a white riot” if the guys in the Reginald Denny case were found not guilty.

            1. Were there a lot of threats of rioting before the Rodney King verdicts?

              1. Exactly. People rarely say “I’m gonna RIOT!” in advance.

                Spontaneous mass movements like many riot are, well, spontaneous, like the King verdict ones.

                Is the idea that if nobody threatened it in advance, we can’t learn from history and see that sometimes people riot when The Law does something they don’t like?

                1. Were there riots after Diallo or Sean Bell?

              2. There was rioting in Atlanta GA after the Rodney King verdict. Yes, in ATLANTA on the opposite end of the continent. Real rioting with a white guy beat into a vegetable and Korean grocers rescued off their burning business by helicopter as the crowd below bellowed for their blood.

                I expect some people will try and riot using the Zimmerman case as an excuse at some point.

              3. This is nothing like Rodney King. The only similarity is the color of the skin of the victim. Early 90s LA was a pressure cooker waiting to explode. You had stratospheric crime rates with an indifferent police force at best and criminal, corrupt that would conspire with gangs and abuse citizens at worst, the peak of the crack epidemic, &c. This is nothing like that.

                1. Did we have >50% Black teen/young adult unemployment and high inflation on inelastic consumer goods?

  3. The Sanford Police Department’s decision not to press charges despite the lead homicide investigator’s recommendation bears serious scrutiny

    That was the state attorney’s decision, according to the linked article.

    1. +100 and it blows holes in that garbage Treyvon’s parents were saying about a police cover-up too.

  4. Feminists are not convinced by Zimmerman’s apology.

    1. Well, it’s Feministing we’re talking about here, not feminists.

    2. I’m not convinced by Zimmerman’s apology. But unfortunately, the whole thing is fucked up now and there’s no way anyone’s gonna come out clean.

      Fucking liberals. They successfully turn an argument about coverage mandates into a discussion about the meaning of the word “slut”, then they turn what was probably an unjustified shooting into a discussion on “stand your ground”.

  5. Professional courtesy? How does this make any sense? Zimmerman is not a police officer.

    1. Yeah, but he doesn’t meet with the author’s approval, so if he can paint Zimmerman with some guilt by association, so much the better.

    2. The cops wanted to charge him. That doesn’t sound very courteous to me.

  6. Call me paranoid, but the timing seems a little odd. It makes me wonder if TPTB are trying to throw a bone to the Martin camp in advance of something they aren’t going to like.

  7. Looks to me that former chief might have a bright future coaching the Brancos. Come on, the resemblance is uncanny!

    1. Broncos. Fuck you left pinky for interfering.

      1. A pinko lefty interfered with your typing? Why not just kick his hipster ass?

    2. He has a bright future coaching the Whites?

  8. If I had a police chief he would look exactly like Bill Lee.

  9. [Commissioner Randy] Jones said the next outsider who comes to Sanford to get attention, “needs to be shown the finger and shown the door.”

    That should be good for a few more death threats.

  10. Why does Zimmerman’s father’s past job as a judge and his roll in the investigation deserve tougher scrutiny? Was he a judge or something in Sanford?

  11. Ed, Serino didn’t want to press charges, he didn’t think Zimmerman’s story didn’t ring true, that whole thing is a myth–it looks like Crump put it out there. There’s an article in the April second Sentinel that has Serino saying that the investigation turned up no evidence that contradicted Zimmerman’s account. I’d look for and post a link, but so far, I’ve avoided getting the squirrels mad at me, and I’d like to keep it that way.

  12. So what does it mean that they reject his resignation? He can’t quit? Huh? Or does it mean that he’s just fired? I don’t get it.

    1. He seems to have worked out a deal with the city manager which the council rejected.

      Apparently, the city manager is named Norton Bonaparte.

  13. Those guys really seem to know what day of the week it is over there. WOw.


  14. Thank you for showing appropriately recent pictures of Martin and Zimmerman, rather than Zimmerman’s old mug shot and Martin as a pre-pubescent boy. By using those old tendentious photos ad nauseam, the American and international media has discredited itself.

    1. Yes because those pictures negate the fact that Zimmerman shot Trayvon.

  15. The Chief should be fired, for not firing the officers who were involved in the cover up that resulted in the last chief stepping down or being fired.

    On top of that they way he stood behind the terrible investigation of his officers as complete and fair, when even other officers pointed out how terrible the initial investigation was also merits firing and the firing of the officers involved.

    He isn’t a scapegoat and he isn’t a victim.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.