The killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fl., in February was a test of a small city police department that does not even have a homicide unit and typically deals with three or four murder cases a year, reports the New York Times. An examination of the Sanford Police Department's handling of the case shows a series of missteps — including sloppy work — and circumstances beyond its control that impeded the investigation and may make it harder to pursue a case that is already difficult.
As the second-degree murder case against George Zimmerman moves to the grinding procedures of the court system and eventual trial, the department's performance, roundly criticized by Martin's family as bungling and biased, will be scrutinized in more meticulous detail. Law enforcement authorities, witnesses, and local elected officials identified many problems with the initial investigation. For example, on the night of the shooting, door-to-door canvassing was not exhaustive enough. If officers had been more thorough, they might have determined that Martin, 17, was a guest, not an intruder — at a gated community. That would have been an important part of the subjective analysis by officers sizing up Zimmerman's story.