Sanford, Florida’s new police chief, Cecil Smith, announced this week that he will be making changes to the neighborhood watch groups in town, including clearly prohibiting carrying guns while on duty and following suspects.
These changes came 20 months after 17-year-old Trayvon was shot and killed by then-neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.
The aftermath of the shooting lead to a nationwide debate over guns, race, and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Zimmerman was eventually charged with 2nd degree murder, but was acquitted of all charges this past July.
Earlier in the year, Smith suspended the neighborhood watch program in order to implement the new changes.
There was really no accountability. There was no true recognition. There were concerns with regards to training. There were concerns with how the program was being run. We put a cease to the neighborhood watch program, essentially, in the manner it was in before, and what we’re doing now is really, truly revamping the entire program, starting from scratch.
More of the changes will be announced by Smith on Nov. 5th, at a community meeting where resident are encouraged to voice their corns.
To prevent any future potentially dangerous encounters between volunteers and suspects, Chief Smith wants to make the language within the neighborhood watch guidelines absolutely clear: Let the police handle it. Although these rules were already embedded within the program Smith, wanted to make sure the rules were direct and to the point.
In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual. In this new program, it clearly indicates that you will not carry a firearm when performing your duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant.
Smith also said he expects some to disagree with the rules, but says they don’t have to be a part of the program
Neighborhood watch is a very simple organization. It’s about neighbors helping neighbors, talking to neighbors about ways to make their neighborhood safe. That’s it. Again, do I think I’m going to make every person happy about our requirements that you don’t be armed? I’m not going to make everyone happy, but not everyone has to be part of the program.