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    Sanford Police Chief Walks Back “No Guns on Neighborhood Watch” Policy

    Sanford Police Chief Walks Back “No Guns on Neighborhood Watch” Policy

    Although it had been widely reported (including right here at Legal Insurrection) that the Sanford, FL police department had banned Neighborhood Watch volunteers from being lawfully armed, Police Chief Cecil Smith now says that this policy was miscommunicated to the public.

    It remains true that volunteers in a more thoroughly organized form of neighborhood watch–called “Citizens on Patrol”–will be prohibited from being armed.  

    Readers may recall  “Citizens on Patrol” from early in the Zimmerman trial.  One of the first of the Prosecution’s witnesses was Wendy Dorival, a civilian employee of the Sanford PD who acted as their liaison with local neighborhood watch programs.  She testified about her interactions with George Zimmerman in that context, describing him in glowing terms.  Indeed, so impressed was she with Zimmerman that she tried to recruit him for the more substantive “Citizens on Patrol” program.  In that program Zimmerman would have been provided with a patrol car, a uniform of sorts, and generally been as close to being a “real” policeman as he had ever hoped to become.

    Zimmerman declined the opportunity — one might speculate because even then the position would have required that Zimmerman disarm himself.  

    So, if it was always the policy that “Citizens on Patrol” were required to be unarmed, but that the “standard” Neighborhood Watch volunteers could lawfully arm themselves, why the past few days news about these issues?

    I expect that the only real “miscommunication” from the Sanford Police Department has been in misunderstanding how severely negative the response would be to the notion that Neighborhood Watch volunteers would be required to leave themselves fatally vulnerable to criminal aggressors preying on their neighborhood.

    For those who are interested, here is Wendy Dorival’s testimony from the trial:

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.


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    I’ve shot both. On ranges (property) owned by others, who set the rules on their own property. But it’s not the activity that makes the rules enforcible, it’s the ownership. If I had a hundred acres and decided to go hold my own competition, I could make whatever rules I wanted. The IPPP or USPSA might not sanction it, nor accept the results, nor let me use their names, fine. But I do not have ‘Rights’ that those things.

    As to a NW setting its own rules for membership, fine. I have no ‘Right’ to be acknowledged by them as a member. However, I can still walk or drive around the neighborhood and watch it any time I choose. Legally armed if I have a CCW.

    And if I set up my own NW with some neighbors, and don’t ask for any ‘endorsement’ by the local fuzz, then we can set what rules we want (within the law).

    And screw signing anything for the PD, while we’re at it. In fact, WTF does the PD have to do with anything about a NW anyway ? They send the fattest ‘community relations officer’ they can find around a few times a year to talk about crap like telling you to put more lights outside, or how you should never get involved, ‘just call the PD’, etc.

    Being in a ‘sanctioned’ NW gives you exactly ZERO additional ‘rights’ or legal status, right ? You are still just a private citizen, not a LEO in any way, no matter what your free ‘Junior Deputy’ badge says.

      pjm asks: “Being in a ‘sanctioned’ NW gives you exactly ZERO additional ‘rights’ or legal status, right ? You are still just a private citizen, not a LEO in any way, no matter what your free ‘Junior Deputy’ badge says.”

      There is no special legal status or additional rights, per se.

      Being an accepted member of an established Neighborhood Watch with police coordination/oversight can provide some modest rhetorical presumption that you’re not simply some trigger-happy vigilante who was just out looking to shoot a “child” for daring to possess”candy and soda” and commit the crime of “wearing a hoodie” and “being black in a gated community.”

      Being a member of the NW makes it somewhat harder for the prosecutor to suggest to the jury that the whole thing could have been avoided if only you’d minded your own business. If there’s a formal NW, and you’re a member, there’s an objectively reasonable explanation for why you DIDN’T just mind your own business.

      But that’s about it.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        pjm in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2013 at 12:10 pm

        “…can provide some modest rhetorical presumption that you’re not simply some trigger-happy vigilante…”

        “…harder for the prosecutor …”

        “…objectively reasonable explanation …” etc

        Really ? How did that work out for George Zimmerman ? 🙁

          Phillep Harding in reply to pjm. | November 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

          And Holder is talking about maybe bringing charges against GZ.

          Being a member of an organized Neighborhood Watch program DID help Zimmerman.

          Do you think his defense counsel’s narrative of innocence would have been stronger or weaker had Zimmerman NOT been an active Neighborhood Watch volunteer, whose very responsibility in that role was to notice and call in suspicious behavior?

          Would it have been easier or harder for the State to convince the jurors that he was a rogue vigilante, had he not been acting under the aegis of a PD facilitated Neighborhood Watch program?

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    amatuerwrangler | November 6, 2013 at 11:02 am

    It is interesting that none of the city’s adjustments of the CW do anything to enhance the general intention of the organization: to put more sets of eyes and ears out there to help the police in responding to potential problems before they impact the citizens.

    Maybe some publicity about what happened to the last potential burglar/thief who decided to confront and assault a member of the NW might deter the next guy who thought a life of crime was for him. Maybe a scene photo of TM with the caption “rehabilitated thug”. Yes, you’re right, I am not quite ready for prime time.

    Doesn’t Florida have a firearms preemption law anyway, that generally bans localities from regulating firearms? Would that apply to a locality trying to disarm their neighborhood watch?

      It’s not “pre-emption” if you are voluntarily placing yourself under the rule–there is no governmental coercion in that situation.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

        pjm in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm

        And I then carry anyway. Then one day the shit hits the fan, like in the GZ case.

        They say ‘You violated the NW rule about guns’.

        I say ‘So what ? I decided not to follow it, as is my right because it’s not a law. I also decided not to announce that fact, because I have no obligation to do so. What’s your point ?’.

        I may have ‘voluntarily placed myself under the rule’, well, I just ‘voluntarily changed my mind’.

        Mac45 in reply to Andrew Branca. | November 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm

        I have to clarify something here.

        There are two seperate entities that perform civilian crime watch functions. One is the Neighborhood Watch and other is the Citizens On Patrol.

        The Neighborhood Watch is a group of civilian, not officially affiliated with the local law enforcement agency, who band together for the purpose of detecting potential criminal threats to their community. The may accept advice from local law enforcement agency, but they are not part of it. In Florida, no political entity has any authority to regulate such an affiliation. Therefor, any attempt to make a rule or pass an ordinance which would in anyway control the bearing of arms by Neighborhood Watch members, legally licensed to do so, would be a violation of 790.33, the Florida preemption statute.

        Citizens on Patrol, on the other hand, is an official organization of the local law enforcement agency. It is sponsored, funded and controlled directly by the LE agency and its members have access to departmental assets not available to the general public. The agency also assumes liability for the actions of members of this group. For this reason, the agency can control membership and set rules of conduct for the members while they are acting as visible members of the organization. This would include establishing a rule which bans the possession of firearms, by the members while “on duty”. It would not be a violaiton of 790.33.

    punfundit | November 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Outlaw national party committees. Unelected bureaucrats should not pick We The People’s candidates. We need to break the establishment’s stranglehold on elections.


    What do you expect from an incompetent affirmative action police chief?

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