Sanford PD Chief Works to Ease Racial Tensions Due to Zimmerman Trial
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

cecil smith sanford PDThe death of Miami teen Trayvon Martin last year rocked the suburban town of Sanford, Florida and the nation alike.

But Cecil E. Smith, Sanford’s police chief, knows the town has deeper wounds to heal, according to the New York Times. Smith, an African American, replaced former police chief Bill Lee, who was fired for mishandling the investigation of Martin’s death by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

When Smith took the top job, at least one white officer in the mostly white department said he didn’t want to work for a black man. It was a startling reminder of the long-held racial tensions between whites and blacks in Sanford, and of the tensions between blacks and the town’s police force.

“This has been a slave town forever,” one resident recently told Smith. “There are people who still feel white people are the devil. You’re not from here. You don’t understand.”

Smith later recalled telling the resident, “Enlighten me so I can enlighten my people.”

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Aaron Morrison

Aaron Morrison is an award-winning New York area-based multimedia journalist with a B.A. in Journalism from San Francisco State University. Aaron uses video, audio, photography, the web and social networks to tell captivating stories across all media platforms. Over the last year, Aaron has worked as a general assignment reporter for the Daily Record (Gannett) in northern New Jersey. Before that, he spent the spring of 2010 as the temporary legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press' statehouse bureau in Trenton, N.J. In his down time, Aaron enjoys the company of his friends and extended family. He is a fan of culinary arts and dreams of having a home kitchen so tricked out that Julia Child turns over in her grave.