Sanford Police Chief Fired
City manager Norton Bonaparte said chief Bill Lee had been relieved of his duties on Wednesday. Chief Lee has been on paid administrative leave since March, when he stepped aside temporarily following an outcry over his department's handling of the investigation into Trayvon Martin's death.
In a statement released Wednesday evening, Bonaparte said "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," he said.
Bonaparte said he is in contact with the Police Executive Research Forum to help search for a new police chief. In the meantime Interim Chief Richard Myers will continue to lead the police department.
Bonaparte said he expects the nationwide search for a new chief will take many months.
Chief Lee will receive a severance of three months pay plus one week in addition to any accrued time off.
In April the Sanford City Commissioners rejected Lee's offer of resignation, saying they wanted to wait until an investigation into the handling of the case was finished.
Lee had stepped aside from his role as police chief in March after complaints about the department's decision not to arrest neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who shot teenager Trayvon Martin during a scuffle in a gated community in Sanford in February.
Zimmerman claims he acted in self defense. He was arrested a month and a half after the shooting and charged with second degree murder, following an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Zimmerman is currently in jail, with a bail hearing scheduled for the end of June.