SANFORD, Fla. - Audio recordings released Wednesday show George Zimmerman criticized the Sanford Police Department long before his confrontation with Trayvon Martin.
The audio recordings, made during Sanford City Commission meetings, reveal Zimmerman’s negative opinions of Sanford police.
Zimmerman, who faces a second-degree murder charge after he shot Martin at a Sanford apartment complex in February, was initially apprehended and then released by Sanford police.
In 2011, Zimmerman attended City Commission meetings to criticize the Police Department’s handling of a 2010 case in which a police lieutenant’s son attacked a homeless man.
Justin Collison, 22, was caught on video sucker-punching Sherman Ware in the face. Ware was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken nose. Authorities charged Collison with felony battery and disorderly conduct. But Collison took a deal on a lesser charge and got one year probation.
Zimmerman told commissioners on Jan. 8, 2011, that Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley should be disciplined for his handling of the case.
"I would like to say that the law is written in black and white,’’ Zimmerman told commissioners. “It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those that are in the thin, blue line. I would like to know what action the commission intends on making in order to repeal Mr. Tooley's pension."
WFTV reporter Melonie Holt found Wednesday that Tooley was never informed of Zimmerman’s comments about his pension, nor the unsubstantiated allegation of a cover-up by his department.
Zimmerman also told commissioners at the same Jan. 8 meeting that the beating of Ware was symptomatic of a troubled department.
"I've also had the opportunity to take ride-alongs with the city of Sanford Police Department,’’ Zimmerman said. “And what I saw was disgusting. The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps.’’
Zimmerman continued to criticize Tooley, saying, "I am aware of how vital it was for your election to secure the Fraternal Order of Police endorsement, but please do not underestimate the most important endorsement is that of the residents and constituents of Sanford."
Sanford city officials were not able to immediately tell Holt if anyone followed up on Zimmerman’s claims.