In January 2011, George Zimmerman called the behavior of the Sanford Police Department "disgusting." Just eight months later, he was lauding the department's "professionalism." The two recently revealed exchanges demonstrate a relationship that evolved over time, culminating in Zimmerman being allowed to walk unescorted through the police department three days after Trayvon Martin's death, in a video obtained by the Miami Herald. That video suggests Zimmerman had a "cozy" and "comfortable" familiarity with police, an attorney for Trayvon's family tells the Huffington Post. "It means that he had a relationship with the Sanford police department. And it’s just unusual that all along they would say they didn’t." A timeline:
- In December 2010, the son of a Sanford police officer was caught on tape beating a homeless black man, but wasn't arrested. After the incident, the Orlando Sentinel reports, Zimmerman urged members of Sanford's black churches to come to a city meeting.
- At that meeting on January 8, 2011, Zimmerman—then a criminal justice student—blasted Police Chief Brian Tooley, who was ousted from office over the incident. Zimmerman claimed he had witnessed "disgusting" behavior on ride-alongs, including officers who took naps and two lunch breaks, or attended parties while on the job. After the meeting, Zimmerman turned down an offer for another ride-along.
- In August 2011, Zimmerman began emailing the Sanford police about a recent wave of burglaries, asking the department to host a neighborhood watch presentation in the community. At that point, the relationship between Zimmerman and police had clearly turned "cordial, even friendly," CNN notes.
- On September 18, 2011, Zimmerman emailed then-Chief Bill Lee (who eventually stepped down in the Martin scandal) praising his department after working with the community volunteer coordinator on the neighborhood meeting. The meeting, held on September 22, urged residents to "Report suspicious persons...activities...or vehicles."