Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Public safety

Sanford offers police chief job to deputy chief of Chicago-area city

CHICAGO — Elgin, Ill., Deputy Police Chief Cecil Smith has been offered the job of police chief in Sanford, the community that drew national controversy over authorities' handling of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, officials announced Tuesday.

If Smith accepts the job, he would succeed former Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee, who was fired last year after a public outcry when police failed to quickly arrest shooting suspect George Zimmerman. Critics accused Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, with targeting Martin, 17, because he was black. Zimmerman has claimed he acted in self defense.

Smith, 51, said he is mulling over the job offer.

"It is going to take a little family conversation to find out if this is a good fit for us or not," he said. "Should everything work out, I look forward to the challenge, in working with the city of Sanford, in resolving any issues that are underlying in the community."

Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte has said that Sanford must "seek ways to heal itself" from the controversy. The teen's Feb. 26 death followed years of complaints, primarily from Sanford's black community, about racism by police against black residents.

Smith was one of five candidates — and one of two black candidates — who traveled to Sanford this month to meet with city leaders and residents about the job. The candidates were chosen from 76 applicants.

"Elgin, unlike Sanford, had issues 20, 30 years ago," Smith said. "You have to have the buy-in from the community to make change. I believe in sitting down and working with those issues."

Sanford's population is about half the size of Elgin's 110,000 residents. Sanford employs 22 police officers, compared with Elgin's 180 officers, Smith said.

Sanford offered Smith an annual salary of $110,469.

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