Sanford's choice for police chief comes from department with racial tensions



The man selected by Sanford to be their new police chief comes from a department that has seen its share of racial problems.

In a recent federal lawsuit, Elgin, Ill., police Officer Phillip Brown claims he is the victim of deeply rooted racial hatred by members of his suburban Chicago department.

It's from those ranks that Deputy Chief Cecil Smith has been offered the opportunity to be Sanford's new top cop.

"It's evident that many police departments go through challenges," said Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte.

The Elgin Police Department has battled accusations of racial tension for years.

In 1997, Smith was one of six officers who filed a similar lawsuit. It was ultimately dismissed.

WFTV's Anthony DiLorenzo Bonaparte if Sanford city officials thought Smith was up for similar challenges waiting for him in Sanford.

"That, I think, enabled him to be sensitive to what's going on in Sanford," said Bonaparte.

In a phone interview with DiLorenzo, Smith said he believes the racial divide has been bridged in Elgin.

"In the past 20 years the Police Department has made significant strides.

Smith said he will continue that as Sanford's police chief.

If he takes the job, Smith would lead another force plagued by accusations of racism, aggravated by the Trayvon Martin shooting.

"It would be my goal to ensure that the Police Department works to resolve any internal issues and issues with the community," said Smith.

"From the background he's done in the city of Elgin, he can reach out to all segments of the community and make them have confidence and trust in the Police Department," said Bonaparte.

Smith said he brought his family to Sanford to look at homes last week.

He said he believes his contract with the city will be finalized in the next few days.