Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman gave a scathing review of the Sanford Police Department when he spoke at a public meeting in January 2011, more than a year before Martin was killed, describing what he’d seen in ride-alongs with officers as “disgusting,” reports CNN.
Zimmerman was then a criminal justice student and told city officials he had ridden along with Sanford police officers on patrol.
He blasted Sanford police as lazy and criticized Police Chief Brian Tooley, who was forced from office following a scandal that involved the son of an officer caught on tape beating a homeless black man, according to The Huff Post.
“I also have had the opportunity to take ride-alongs with the city of Sanford Police Department and what I saw was disgusting,” Zimmerman said at the time.
“The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps. … He took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers.”
The officer “explained to me that he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you’re going to find me as far away from it,” Zimmerman said.
“I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white, it can not be enforced by those who are in the thin blue line,” Zimmerman said, according to an audio recording of a January 8, 2011, public meeting at Sanford’s City Hall.
Sanford Police Capt. Robert O’Connor said that the department does not have specific details about when Zimmerman rode with police or whom he rode with “if in fact he ever did ride with SPD.”
Richard Myers, Interim Police Chief, said it would be “inappropriate” to draw conclusions from Zimmerman’s 2010 speech before the city council.
“As a police chief, I embrace the notion that transparency helps build public trust, but in this case, the need to preserve the sanctity of a criminal prosecution, for both the prosecutor and the defense, requires us to eschew making any comments that could taint the process,” Myers said in a statement.
The rides, together with new video showing George Zimmerman roaming the police department unescorted just three days after the shooting, are reviving old questions of Zimmerman’s relationship with the department that decided against charging him with a crime on the night of the shooting, tells ABC News.
The video suggests a “cozy” and “comfortable” relationship with the police, said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family.
“This video of Zimmerman just walking through the police department so casually underscores that people in that department have a familiarity with him,” Crump said.
“It means that he had a relationship with the Sanford police department. And it’s just unusual that all along they would say they didn’t. But he went on several ride-alongs with them and he was comfortable enough to walk unescorted through their department,” the attorney said.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, which sparked nationwide protests.
He was not arrested at the night of the incident, but was later charged by a state prosecutor with second degree murder in Martin’s death.
Beginning in August 2011, Zimmerman exchanged e-mails with the Sanford police department at least three times, according to the court documents.
Zimmerman wrote an e-mail to the then-chief of Sanford’s police on September 18, 2011, saying that he had “a completely new perspective” after working closely with the department’s community volunteer coordinator. “I have not had a positive perspective of Sanford Police Department,” he wrote.
CNN says that Zimmerman’s e-mails with Sanford police show a friendly, relationship. In an e-mail dated September 19, Sanford police volunteer coordinator Wendy Dorival expressed gratitude to Zimmerman for his “kind words” sent to the chief.
Zimmerman responded, “It was with great pleasure that I sent that e-mail, you deserve the recognition!”