The Sanford Black community is being forced, by less than desirable elements in their political arena, as many of the supporters of Chief Bill Lee are not of the Sanford community, to face its own inadequacies. Moreover, in facing those inadequacies and resolving them effectively, the Sanford Black community will become a force to be reckoned with if they are successful. Blacks have to sort out Blacks who are interested in advancing the agenda of having the chief of police permanently removed from Blacks who are simply fronting and looking for their two minutes of fame. The Chief of Police, I am referring to is Bill Lee, who within seven and one half hours allowed George Zimmerman, the alleged 2nd degree murderer of Trayvon Martin to walk free.
It was the special prosecutor assigned by the governor of the state of Florida who later brought those charges after massive demonstrations in Sanford, Florida. Sanford is a city of about 54,000 people with a significant Black population of approximately 30% or 16,200 people. It is about 17 miles outside of Orlando, Florida and is located on huge Lake Monroe, which is a part of the St. Johns River chain. This Black community is going through something many Black communities have never experienced, a true trial by fire. The Mayor of that city, Jeff Triplett sided with two other commissioners and rejected the resignation of the embattled Chief Lee. This was the same Mayor in a previous vote who voted no confidence in the chief of police.
Mayor Triplett’s vote to reject the resignation of this chief, who has lost the confidence and trust of the Black community, should not have been surprising. Triplett’s vote was the swing vote, on a commission of five commissioners. Among those five commissioners, there is one Black commissioner, Velma Williams. In fact, Mrs. Williams is the only Black elected official in the county of Seminole where Sanford is located. A yes vote by Triplett would have sent this chief packing. The reason I say Triplett’s vote to keep the chief in his job was not surprising goes back to his no confidence vote in March.
When Commissioner Mark McCarty first introduced his motion of no confidence in Chief Bill Lee, back on March 21, 2012, Triplett was less than enthusiastic about voting on the motion. As a matter of fact he said, “I don’t think a vote needs to take place,” on the motion of no confidence. However, Commission McCarty insisted, saying the motion is on the floor and has been seconded. McCarty said that all the Mayor had to do was to vote yes or no. You see, Commissioner McCarty put Mayor Triplett in an untenable position because Mayor Triplett had been meeting with Blacks and had indicated he thought Chief Lee’s management of the Trayvon Martin affair was not admirable. With what appeared to be reluctance, this Mayor voted no confidence in Chief Lee and that vote became a part of the record. Therefore, what Blacks have in Mayor Triplett is a politician who appears to have been playing both sides, and doing it well, up to the time of the vote on the resignation offered by Chief Lee.
Can Sanford’s Black residents pull victory from the jaws of what may appear to be a defeat? Is it possible? Yes, they can. They have to look at what prompted the city manager to present such a resignation package in the first place. This city manager had been adamant prior to the presentation of the resignation package that he was determined to keep Lee on the payroll. He said he needed some findings from one of the many agencies investigating the Sanford Police Department showing Lee had done something wrong. Those investigations, everyone assumed would take several months. Nevertheless, here it was something the Black community had been asking for, a resignation package on the table ready to be voted on by the commission on that Monday, April 23.
What had happened to prompt such a move by this city manager? The only activity of any significance that occurred in the prior week, that may have pushed Mr. Bonaparte, the city manager to speedily put together such a package, was the picketing done by a small group of Sanford residences of downtown merchants on that previous Thursday and Friday. It came down to a language, everyone understands, and that language is money. Those few picketers demonstrated to the Sanford merchants their outrage over the Chief not being fired, or removed, by simply practicing their First Amendment Constitutional Rights and the merchants responded by contacting the city manager. It is ironic, for the Sanford Black community, to succeed and become a force to be reckoned with; they simply have to have the courage to exercise their constitutional rights. Can it be anymore simpler?
By; James Davis