Sanford continues search for new police chief, some residents ask for return of Bill Lee



SANFORD, Fla. - Sanford city leaders gave an update on their search for a new police chief Wednesday.

In March, the former chief, Bill Lee, stepped aside amid growing controversy over how his department handled the Trayvon Martin case.

The city then officially fired Lee in June. On Wednesday, residents got the chance to weigh in on what they want in a new police chief. Some people even asked about hiring Lee back.

But the final decision lies with Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte and he is the one who fired Lee.

While that was the biggest concern of some who came to the meeting today others said they want the new chief to be someone who can build trust.

"It seems like if it's not downtown they don't care so we need a police chief that wants to represent all citizens of Sanford," said Sanford resident Vernon Johnson.

"Judges, lawyers can go to Colonial Room, eat lunch, they speak to them, wave. I could go in there. Look at me with a funny look," said Sanford resident Bernard Brown.

The comments from Sanford residents represent how they feel about the Sanford Police Department, and the way they feel they've been mistreated by police for decades.

That boiled over with the controversy surrounding the Martin case.

"You have to respect everybody whether they live in Lake Forest or the housing authority," said Brown.

The city hired the Waters Consulting firm in June to help them find a new police chief. That was when the city manager fired Lee over his handling of the Martin case. The city will pay the firm a base rate of $13,000.

Waters Consulting is the same firm hired by the city when they found and hired Lee and the city manager.

They said they will begin aggressive recruiting in the next couple of weeks with a goal of having a list of final candidates submitted to the City Commission by early December.