Sanford Bans Guns From Neighborhood Watch Patrol
Sanford Chief of Police Cecil Smith, (formerly of Elgin, IL), took over that police department in April 2013. He saw that the Neighborhood Watch program needed reform and he has done just that.
“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.”
The new program clearly states not to pursue an individual, and clearly indicates that no firearms are carried when performing duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant.
That’s not all. According to local reports, the new Neighborhood Watch program will include mandatory background checks and designated block captains who will have direct lines of communication with a new division of officers created to work with neighborhood watch members. Before the new rules, a civilian was the liaison between police and watch volunteers.
That civilian was a witness in the George Zimmerman trial.
Smith said the new program is really just getting back to the basics of what neighborhood watch is supposed to be.
“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.”
These changes were necessary, and clear policies were needed, after George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin as a burglar, followed the unarmed 17-year-old in his vehicle, and when Trayvon ran, left his vehicle and pursued Trayvon on foot and killed him.
Although Zimmerman said he was on his way to Target to get groceries when he saw Trayvon, and did not tell police dispatch that he was Neighborhood Watch, Zimmerman later justified his profiling, call to police, and pursuit by relying on and recounting his neighborhood watch activity, including organizing it for the Retreat at Twin Lakes community.
Sources: The Grio