Sanford Officially Fires Former Police Chief Bill Lee

Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte has issued a press release stating Police Chief Bill Lee, who has been on paid leave since he submitted his resignation in April, has been terminated.

"After much thoughtful discussion and deep consideration for the issues facing the City of Sanford, I have determined the Police Chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community. We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support. I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city."

Interim chief Richard W. Myers will stay on the job while they search for a permanent replacement. I wonder why Myers isn't getting the job permanently.

I don't read much into this. I've seen nothing official to indicate he is being fired because he didn't arrest George Zimmerman right after the shooting, or that the initial determination that they lacked evidence to dispute that Trayvon Martin's shooting was an act of self-defense, was wrong. It was just unpopular with the public, causing friction in the community. This seems to be tying up loose ends, so that Sanford can stop paying his salary when they know he's not returning to the position.

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    This is sad... as is everything re: this case: (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Cashmere on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:49:08 PM EST
    "Manager Bonaparte has chosen to exercise his rights under the employment contract to terminate my employment without cause."
    (from Bill Lee).

    Such a tragedy all around impacting so many lives, and media which has turned this into a fiasco (this site excluded.  This site has done such a good job of presenting actual evidence to be examined and discussed).

    I Hate... (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 09:23:27 AM EST
    ...that my favorite website has been high-jacked by right wing idiots who have nothing to say about anything beyond "George Zimmerman is being railroaded by left wing radicals."

    That being said, I can't imagine anyone holding that position would remain employed.  It really sucks, he had nothing to do with the decision, which of course was actually his to make, right or wrong.

    But he has been on paid leave since April, not a bad gig if you can get it and I am sure this will cost the city of Stanford a good chunk of change, he was under contract.  But I don't know that for sure.

    What I do know, there is no shortage of the police state anywhere and I am positive many communities would love to have him, even for perceived beliefs, that much like this entire case, may or may not be true.  

    He will be alright and certainly from this leftist perspective he isn't leaving with any stains on his record.  He is a victim of circumstance, nothing more.

    He offered to resign (none / 0) (#48)
    by jbindc on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 09:28:45 AM EST
    And the city council / board refused it.

    Kill the messenger (5.00 / 2) (#59)
    by Cylinder on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:32:59 PM EST
    Yup-Cheif Lee had to go before the evidence release. You can't claim a whitewash the same day you release the proof of multiple statements, a grilling by Serino, DNA swabs, stress test, re-enactment, etc...

    Statement from former Chief Bill Lee (none / 0) (#1)
    by Raoul on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:33:11 PM EST
    "It is disappointing that, in spite of his steadfast commitment to fairness and waiting for the results of a review of the Sanford Police Department and its investigation of the Trayvon Martin case, City Manager Bonaparte has chosen to exercise his rights under the employment contract to terminate my employment without cause.
    I continue to stand by the work performed by the Sanford Police Department in this tragic shooting, which has been plagued by misrepresentations and false statements for interests other than justice. As the case progresses through the justice system, the evidence will show that our investigation was a proper effort to find the truth and follow the law. This has already been validated by evidence that has since become public as well as by comments from the special prosecutor.

    I appreciate the opportunity I have had to serve all the people of the City of Sanford, the City Employees and especially the men and women of the Sanford Police Department."


    False Statements (none / 0) (#2)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:46:37 PM EST
    I listed some of the 'misrepresentations and false statements' in an earlier comment. It was deleted, I'm not sure why. Each one is now known to be demonstrably false by anyone paying attention.

    False: The Sanford PD didn't handcuff Zimmerman, take him in for questioning, take his gun or his clothes.

    False: They didn't question other witnesses, or put up tape around the crime scene and collect physical evidence.

    False: Trayvon Martin wasn't identified or his family notified for three days.


    I don't think I would have deleted that (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:01:44 PM EST
    comment. It's fine.

    The big lie that still goes unchecked (none / 0) (#5)
    by Redbrow on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:10:20 PM EST
    ABC Matt Gutman
    A dispatcher told him to wait for a police cruiser, and not leave his vehicle.

    NY Times

    The dispatcher told him to stay in his car and said the police would be on the way.

    Daily Kos

    Zimmerman was told to stay in his car and not confront the "suspicious" person (Trayvon Martin on foot) that Zimmerman was reporting to the police.

    Daily Mail UK

    A dispatcher told Zimmerman to stay in his sport utility vehicle and that an officer would be there momentarily, but Zimmerman - for unknown reasons - got out.

    More of the same (none / 0) (#12)
    by Cylinder on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:49:00 AM EST
    The Gaurdian scores in the lede:

    The police chief who sparked outrage by releasing accused murderer George Zimmerman without charge on the night he shot and killed the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin has been sacked.

    They're stll using the 12-yr-old-Martin... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Gandydancer on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 02:41:20 AM EST
    ...picture in the article, and again in a link downpage, and though they've switched to smiley-George for the article, they're still using the perp suit* shot downpage. And
    The case has prompted a review of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows for the use of deadly force when a person feels their life is in danger.
    Their Miami stringer evidently feels no need to know his subject, and his UK editors are indifferent as well.

    *Actually, it may just be an orange shirt. Seems there were photos of George in an orange shirt in his MySpace pages, though I haven't seen them to confirm that the "perp suit" is just a traffic-cone colored shirt.


    Warning (none / 0) (#6)
    by lousy1 on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:28:06 PM EST
    Don't let this fellow manage your local government.

    Hopefully he will be seeking employment soon.

    collateral damage (none / 0) (#7)
    by IrishGerard on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:33:20 PM EST
    I've seen nothing official to indicate he is being fired because he didn't arrest George Zimmerman right after the shooting, or that the initial determination that they lacked evidence to dispute that Trayvon Martin's shooting was an act of self-defense, was wrong.

    But wasn't it the DA that made the decision not to file charges; and in accordance with SYG law that zimmerman would be immune from arrest?

    It's my understanding that one of the SPD investigators wanted zimmerman charged (with manslaughter).

    So what then was SPD's official stance?

    Technicality (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by cboldt on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 03:26:53 AM EST
    Jeralyn remarks that she's seen no official justification from Bonaparte, that "[Lee] is being fired because he didn't arrest George Zimmerman right after the shooting, or that the initial determination that they lacked evidence to dispute that Trayvon Martin's shooting was an act of self-defense, was wrong."

    While I agree that those justifications aren't recited in writing or a public statement, the factor at the bottom of the community division is the absence of arrest, and Lee's dismissal is a consequence of the community division.

    In my opinion, Lee is being fired because his police department didn't arrest Zimmerman.

    I don't believe the firing will ameliorate the community division.  But it is certainly a victory for one side of the divided community.


    I think... (none / 0) (#63)
    by DebFrmHell on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 05:27:34 AM EST
    That his firing like this was purely political.

    He tried to resign.  They didn't except it.

    Only to fire him a month or so later?  It seems be designed to publicly humiliate him.

    And I, personally, thought they sucked for doing it this way.  

    Take the politics out of this case and you would have no case.

    Just IMO.  


    SPD stance is whatever you want it to be (none / 0) (#15)
    by cboldt on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 02:34:51 AM EST
    The State Attorney, Wolfinger, was planning to submit the case to a grand jury on April 10.  The grand jury would have made a decision to charge, or not.

    The March 13 SPD transmittal to Wolfinger stated a belief that there was probable cause to issue a capias (arrest warrant) of Zimmerman for manslaughter, because Zimmerman could have broken the chain of events by not getting out of his truck, or in the alternative, if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party's concern (pages 26 & 27 of the 183 page document dump).

    From that document, one would say SPD's official stance was to charge Zimmerman.  But the SPD is having it both ways, because it also did not arrest Zimmerman, and gave as a reason that it lacked probable cause to overcome the self-defense statute.


    Serino flip flopped days later and said (none / 0) (#19)
    by Redbrow on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 03:31:19 AM EST
    there is no reliable evidence that cast doubt on Zimmerman's account.

    Two weeks ago, during an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, Lee disclosed certain details of the investigation and during that session, attended by Serino and others, Serino said his investigation turned up no reliable evidence that cast doubt on Zimmerman's account - that he had acted in self-defense.

    "The best evidence we have is the testimony of George Zimmerman, and he says the decedent was the primary aggressor in the whole event," Serino told the Sentinel March 16. "Everything I have is adding up to what he says."

    That's not really a flip flop (none / 0) (#20)
    by cboldt on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 03:37:34 AM EST
    Serino's suggestion to charge lets him have things both ways, all along.

    He asserts that there is no evidence in contradiction of Zimmerman's account.  Quick sidebar, Lee uses this to conclude that there is insufficient evidence to find probable cause Zimmerman did not act in self defense.

    He also says that if you believe Zimmerman's account, then there is probable cause to arrest Zimmerman for manslaughter, because Zimmerman could have broken the chain of events.

    Hot potato over to Wolfinger.  He might be fired next, for contributing to the divisiveness in the community.


    Broken Nose, Broken Narrative. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Cylinder on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:59:14 PM EST
    Mr. Zimmerman's claim is that the confrontation was initiated by Trayvon. I am not going into specifics of what led to the violent physical encounter witnessed by residents. All the physical evidence and testimony we have independent of what Mr. Zimmerman provides corroborates this claim to self-defense.

    Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee
    March 20, 2012

    Interesting. Not "for cause" (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:08:40 AM EST
    but because the community is divided.  Lawsuit?

    Maybe because... (none / 0) (#13)
    by unitron on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 01:56:20 AM EST

    "I wonder why Myers isn't getting the job permanently."

    Maybe he's smart enough not to want it.

    He was right about this (none / 0) (#14)
    by Redbrow on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 02:11:12 AM EST
    but who needs a PD Chief when the mayor and manager know better?

    I have asked Chief Lee to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this matter. Below are his responses.

    "Why weren't the 911 tapes initially released?

    There are exemptions to the public records laws for active criminal intelligence and for ongoing investigations. In this instance, the 911 calls made by neighbors in the subdivision, and the non-emergency call made by Mr. Zimmerman are all key to the investigation by Sanford Police Department. In consultation with the Office of the State Attorney, the Sanford police department had decided not to release the audio recordings of the 911 calls due to the ongoing investigation. Many times, specific information is contained in those recordings which is vital to the integrity of the investigation. At the time, it was determined that if revealed, the information may compromise the integrity of the investigation prior to its completion."

    Even more evidence (none / 0) (#22)
    by cboldt on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:52:23 AM EST
    O'Mara has published Zimmerman's account as told to SPD.  I expect Jeralyn will produce a separate thread for that.  But, heads up for anybody who is inclined to look at the material before a new thread appears.

    new thread on Zimmerman's statements (none / 0) (#56)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 10:55:35 AM EST
    is here. This thread is about Chief Lee.

    The usual reason for not hiring the interim (none / 0) (#23)
    by scribe on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:13:41 AM EST
    immediately, is that the municipality will want to avoid any allegation of favoritism or manipulation that might arise out of firing one police chief and permanently replacing him/her with the interim.  

    More commonly, the allegation of manipulation or favoritism comes up in the context of local politics, where a chief might be associated with one faction.  In situations where that faction is out of power, the allegation will almost inevitably arise (someone gets pulled over for a DWI or something) that the chief is using the department for political vendettas (against the in-power faction).  Then, if the chief gets fired, it's called a political witch hunt, particularly if the chief's replacement is from the other political faction.

    So, to avoid this, many municipalities will have an interim chief, then advertise the position publicly and have a "competitive" hiring process.  In some, it's a matter of policy and in some it's a matter of ordinance or even law.  In the present environment of low advertising costs, positions are often advertised nationally.  Obviously the interim, being local and from the department, will have something of a leg up on the competition.  But it's by no means a guarantee of getting the permanent job.

    In short, then, the reason for not immediately hiring the interim as the permanent, is practicality.

    I still don't understand SYG (none / 0) (#61)
    by NYShooter on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:08:18 PM EST
    The SPD released Zimmerman after a few hours of questioning & investigation. Obviously, that wasn't enough time to do the thorough investigation that a shooting like this would ordinarily require.

    So, my question is, could the SPD release Z,  complete the investigation, and then arrest him if the evidence indicated probable cause?

    Yes. (none / 0) (#62)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:21:57 PM EST
    if this case wasn't so tragic, on so many (none / 0) (#64)
    by cpinva on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 05:30:40 AM EST
    levels, i'd think we had a parody of a "Law and Order" episode.

    as i understand it (admittedly, i've not read every single bit of information related to this case, so i may have missed it), releasing mr. zimmerman on the night of the murder wasn't chief lee's call, it was the decision of the local prosecutor, who would ultimately have been the one (in normal circumstances) to try the case. of course, this decision was presumably made based on the results of the police "investigation", the responsibility of chief lee. considering the amount of forensic work still requiring completion at that point, that has always struck me as a bit premature.

    Who's The Boss? (none / 0) (#65)
    by nomatter0nevermind on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 02:51:18 AM EST
    Police departments aren't subordinate to prosecutors. They might choose to consult, but police don't need the consent of prosecutors to make an arrest.

    Reuters, April 2:

    Lynne Bumpus-Hooper, a spokesman for Wolfinger, said the state attorney never spoke with Lee on the night of the shooting. Instead Sanford police consulted that night with Kelly Jo Hines, the prosecutor on call, Bumpus-Hooper said.

    "Police officers can make an arrest at virtually any dadgum point they feel they have enough probable cause to make an arrest," Bumpus-Hooper said. "They do not need our permission and they do not seek our permission."