Sanford police chief fired over Trayvon Martin murder

In this March 22, 2012 file photo, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee speaks to the the media during a news conference as city manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. listens at left, in Sanford Fla. Lee, who was strongly criticized for his agency’s initial investigation of Trayvon Martin’s slaying, was fired Wednesday, June 20, 2012, city officials said.

Saying he’s lost the trust of officials, a city manager fired a central Floridapolice chief who was criticized for his agency’s initial investigation of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer.Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte said in a Wednesday statement that he relieved Chief Bill Lee of duty because he “determined the Police Chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community.”

“We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support,” Bonaparte said. “I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city.”

The initial lack of an arrest following the death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in February led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.

The local prosecutor recused himself from the case, prompting Gov. Rick Scott to appoint special prosecutor Angela Corey, who charged Zimmerman in April with second-degree murder. The 17-year-old Martin was fatally shot following a Feb. 26 altercation with Zimmerman, who claims self-defense and has pleaded not guilty.

Lee took a leave of absence in March and offered his resignation in April. The city council rejected Lee’s resignation by a 3-2 vote. Several council members indicated they wanted to let a Department of Justice review of the police investigation play out before making a final decision.

In a statement, Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s parents, said the parents respected the city manager’s decision.

In May, Rick Myers took over as Sanford’s interim police chief, saying he wanted to heal the emotional wounds caused by Martin’s death. He has said he would reach out to people in Sanford who feel they’ve been ignored by the police.

Bonaparte said he had been in contact with the Police Executive Research Forum about the search for a successor to Lee.

“I believe that there are many law enforcement officials who will find accepting the opportunity to serve as Sanford’s Police Chief a welcome challenge for their careers”, the city manager said. “I expect the search for a new chief to take several months.”

Lee will get three months of severance and one week’s salary, in addition to any earned time off, under his contract.

“I wish Chief Lee all the best in his future endeavors,” Bonaparte said.

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Florida legislators close to forbidding pregnant inmates from being handcuffed during birth

Fresh off their devastatingly progressive move to legalize rabbit-dyeing, the Florida House passed another landmark law for human rights by banning, at last, state prisons from handcuffing pregnant women during live birth. Next on the agenda: Outlawing forced marathons for disabled veterans in jail and prohibiting wardens from pouring salt directly into convicts’ open wounds.

This is Florida, though, so a legislator from Tampa did vote against the measure. And don’t worry: If the jailers decide the mother-to-be is a “security risk,” they could still handcuff her during the miracle of life.

Believe it or not, the Florida Legislature couldn’t agree to pass a similar measure last year. Presumably, babies were being born to shackled mothers from Krome Detention Facility to the Apalachee Correctional Facility.

Actually, if any pregnant women have ever actually been handcuffed while giving birth in Florida, there don’t seem to be any stories on the subject in Nexis or Google.

In fact, the Department of Corrections issued a statement last time this issue was debating claiming that they “do not shackle or otherwise restrain female inmates during any stage of labor” and that doing so “is not reasonable nor is it good security practice.”

Still, with the state rushing headlong to privatize prisons and with the fourth largest population of female prisoners in the country, it’s probably a good idea to have an anti-handcuffing during pregnancy law on the books just for good measure.

The Senate is expected to pass the House version of the bill, which will head to Rick Scott.

Oh, and the legislator who opposed the bill? Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg.

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