Sanford police chief wants guns out of Neighborhood Watch hands

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter

SANFORD, Fla. - Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith says he's not getting the response he expected when he announced new rules that would take guns out of the hands of Neighborhood Watch volunteers.

That rule is part of a new training regiment that will be unveiled at Sanford City Hall on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

The change comes after one of the most high profile shootings involving a neighborhood watch volunteer: the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

While some may applaud the chief's move, others disagree, saying it's infringing on their second amendment rights.

"If you volunteer with this program, don't carry a firearm," Smith said. "That's all we're asking."

Smith has been in charge of the Sanford Police Department for about six months.

City Commissioner Patty Mahany applauds Smith's proactive approach but doesn't think the police department should be involved in neighborhood watch training at all.

"If (George Zimmerman case) were to happen again, they could say they were trained by the Sanford Police Department, they're endorsed by the city," Mahany said. "Guess what? Now your city is liable."

Smith and city attorneys met on Thursday to go over the new policy to make sure it didn't violate state or national laws.

Smith said people are allowed to keep watch of their neighborhood within the scope of the law, but if you're going to do it in partnership with the police department, you need to keep your firearms at home.

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