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, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.