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The new Sanford police chief has stated that he wants to ease racial tensions between his officers and the African-American community.
Richard Myers, 58, took over the role of chief from Bill Lee, who has been placed on leave due to criticism over how he handled the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin. In the case of Trayvon, the 17-year-old was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Prosecutors and critics alike believe that Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon because he was black.
Due to the case, the city of Sanford, in Florida, has been thrust into the national spotlight. Myers says that he would like to bring confidence back into their community.
“It’s apparent to me that there is some tension here between the African-American community and the police. I think both the community and people of the police department want to improve that. I’m going to do whatever I can to help facilitate strengthening that connection,” Myers said.
While the new chief doesn’t have any plans right now to deal with racial issues, he says that he’s going to leave some of it up to residents and officers to develop a plan of action. He also wants to look into neighborhood watch groups.
“I’ve never heard of a neighborhood watch program that authorizes people to carry guns,” Myers said.
On Feb. 26, Trayvon was shot and killed as he returned to a gated community. His family believes he was followed by Zimmerman, 28, because he deemed him “suspicious” thanks to the teenager being black and wearing a hoodie.
Zimmerman, who is half Hispanic, has stated that he shot Trayvon in self-defense. He currently has been charged with second-degree murder.