Sanford, Fla. Gets Interim Chief

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  • The Florida city at the center of the Trayvon Martin case appointed a new interim police chief Tuesday while the current one remains on paid leave after city commissioners rejected his offer to resign last week.

    Richard Myers was named interim police chief of the Sanford, Fla., department. He is a former police chief of Colorado Springs, Colo. and has worked for 35 years in law enforcement.

    Sanford police chief Bill Lee stepped aside from his job to let emotions cool after Martin’s death. The 17-year-old Martin was fatally shot last February by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Sanford police officers didn’t immediately arrest Zimmerman because they said he claimed self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

    The lack of an arrest for 44 days led to protests nationwide about the handling of the racially charged case. A special prosecutor charged Zimmerman last month with second-degree murder. He has been in hiding since his release on $150,000 bond.

    Lee and Sanford’s city manager had worked out a resignation deal last week but city commissioners rejected it, saying they didn’t want to make any decisions until several reviews of how the Martin case was handled are completed. Only a month earlier, city commissioners gave Lee a vote of no confidence.

    The Martin case renewed complaints that the Sanford Police Department ignored the concerns of the city’s African American community. The city of 53,000 residents is 57 percent white and 30 percent black.

    Both Lee and Myers are white. A Sanford police captain, Darren Scott, who filled in as head of the department during the search for an interim chief, is African-American.

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