Should All The Blame Be Put On Police Chief?
Chief Bill Lee of the Sanford Police Department, the agency that handled the original investigation, took a leave of absence after the community put majority of the blame on him for not arresting Zimmerman immediately. He chose to put it in the hands of the state attorney’s office for his jurisdiction. Yesterday, he went as far as to negotiating his resignation with the city manager, Norton N. Bonaparte, pending approval from the city council. The city council rejected the resignation 3-2. It was also noted that the chief was ready and able to return to work but was resigning based on the “recommendation” of Bonaparte.
Two of the votes to deny, came from commissioners who support Lee, and the mayor of Sanford who wants an investigation before Lee is permitted to resign.
“I’m not ready to have him come back and run the Police Department, but I don’t know if I’m ready for this either.” — Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett
The other two don’t see that Lee has done anything wrong. And in reality, I am not sure what he did wrong either. I am not on the police force, but my job allows me to work with police officers regularly. I am also in court to testify as part of my job. I have experienced first hand when a suspect of a crime was not taken into custody immediately. There have been times when the officers would investigate, but were not sure if the state would take the case.
So officers send their reports to the state attorney’s office. It gets reviewed there, and then if the state will prosecute, they swear out a warrant, and send a law enforcement officer to arrest the suspect.
Chief Lee and his officers (even though some say they did not agree with the decision) were in contact with the state attorney of their jurisdiction. Their state attorney said at that moment he was not going to prosecute the case. Ultimately it is up to him. If the state is not going to prosecute, then why would the officers arrest him. It would be a waste of time for both the officers and the jail. Decisions are made like this everyday. The only difference, is those cases are not so high profile and of course racially charged.
If Chief Lee is going to be blamed for the decision not to arrest Zimmerman, then all chiefs and sheriffs should be forced to do the same. They all do it. It is how the justice system works. It is not perfect, but it is what has worked for us for this long.
The best thing that we as a community can do, is let this trial go through the system like it is supposed to, not in the media and public opinion. Then after all is said and done, and internal investigations have been conducted to determine if there was any negligence within the agency or state attorney’s office, then seek resignations and/or terminations. People are very angry right now. Everyone wants someone to blame. But lets make sure we blame the right people, and only when we know for sure they are guilty of what they are being accused of.
CNN is keeping a Timeline of the Trayvon Martin case. It can be viewed by clicking here. (Opens in a new window)