New Sanford police chief talks new job, Trayvon Martin with WFTV

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ELGIN, Ill. - Channel 9's Karla Ray made the trip to Elgin, Ill., to talk 1-on-1 with newly hired Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith.

Smith is scheduled to start his new position on April 1, just 20 days before George Zimmerman goes to court for a stand your ground hearing in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. He'll be the city's fifth chief in only two years.

Smith told Channel 9 that repairing the damage done by the handling of the Martin shooting needs to be a city-wide effort.

"When you think about the fact that the city has a number of chiefs, many of them there for a very short time, there's been no one individual that the entire department could rally behind," Smith said.

Sanford's police department came under fire for how long it took to charge Zimmerman in last year's shooting.

Smith said his first goal is to repair the relationship and ease the racial tensions within the community following the handling of the investigation.

"Is Sanford's problem a Trayvon Martin problem? No," Smith said. "Sanford has had issues for many, many years. We have to let it go through the court system. The court has to make the decision whether Mr. Zimmerman is guilty or not guilty, but my goal in the Police Department is to make sure nothing like this happens again."

Smith has been with the Elgin Police Department his entire law enforcement career, and in that time, he's helped fix some of the same issues that are plaguing Sanford.

"Elgin was the Sanford of the past, where you knew that there were concentrations of areas where you had issues and concerns in," Smith said.

Smith also helped launch a gang unit in Elgin and a division similar to Sanford's new neighborhood response unit. Last year, the city that's about twice the size of Sanford only had two homicides.

When asked how long it will take to get Sanford to that level, Smith said, "It's taken a long time, and nothing is going to happen overnight. It's not."

Smith admits he's never dealt with an event as big as the Zimmerman case, and he said it will be a collaborative effort with the sheriff's office keeping the community safe during the trial.