The Lookout

George Zimmerman changed his view of Sanford police, files show

The Lookout

Click image to see more photos (Gary Green/The Orlando Sentinel-Pool/Getty Images)

George Zimmerman's view of the Sanford, Fla., Police Department shifted during an eight-month period in 2011, CNN is reporting.

Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, called what he saw on ride-alongs with police "disgusting" at a public community forum in January 2011.

However Zimmerman changed his tune in a September 2011 email where he commended the city's police chief and described a member of his department as displaying the  "highest level of professionalism."

Zimmerman's relationship with police has been in the spotlight, with critics charging that he received preferential treatment from the city's department as a part of the neighborhood watch program, according to media reports. These new findings come days after four witnesses in the highly publicized case changed their stories, some "in ways that may damage" Zimmerman.

Sanford police have declined to comment on the new findings.

[Related: Should the murder charge be dropped?]

In a videotape of a Jan. 8, 2011, City Hall community forum obtained by CNN, Zimmerman described his experience with police:

"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 forum took place five days after the resignation of former Police Chief Brian Tooley, reports the Miami Herald. Tooley stepped down after the son of a police lieutenant was caught on video beating a homeless black man, and no arrests were made for weeks.

After working with the neighborhood watch for two months, Zimmerman wrote this email to Tooley's replacement, Bill Lee, on Sept. 18, 2011:

"I have high hopes for, and restored faith in your administration and the Sanford Police Department in its entirety," he wrote.

[Related: Trayvon Martin gun range targets allegedly sold online]

He praised the volunteer coordinator and said she went "above and beyond to help launch a neighborhood watch"; he called her "a testament to the highest level of professionalism of (the chief's) administration."

Court documents released last week of an email exchange between Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department showed a cordial, "even friendly" relationship between Zimmerman and police, according to the CNN report.

New video from the Miami Herald also shows Zimmerman with the back of his head bandaged, unaccompanied by officers at the Sanford Police Department. Some say this illustrates Zimmerman's relationship with police, according to the Miami Herald.

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