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Year before Trayvon Martin shooting, George Zimmerman criticized Sanford police as lazy, 'disgusting'

George Zimmerman critized Sanford, Fla., police as lazy at a public forum in January 2011.
George Zimmerman critized Sanford, Fla., police as lazy at a public forum in January 2011.Gary W. Green / Epa File / EPA

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A year before he shot Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman criticized Sanford, Fla., police as lazy, saying at a public forum that he saw “disgusting” behavior by officers on ride-alongs.

He also contended the department covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer.

"I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white," Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to city commissioners at a community forum. "It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those that are in the thin blue line."

The forum took place on Jan. 8, 2011, days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Tooley's department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant, in the beating.

The Miami Herald obtained a clip of a recording of the meeting and first reported details from the community forum Wednesday. The Associated Press also obtained a copy of the tape and reported details.

Zimmerman's public comments could be important because Martin’s parents and supporters contend the neighborhood watch volunteer singled Martin out because he was black. Zimmerman has a Peruvian mother and a white father. His supporters have said he is not racist.

Miami Herald: Listen to Zimmerman's January 2011 comments at community forum

At the community forum, Zimmerman said he witnessed "disgusting" behavior by officers when he was part of a ride-along program.

“The officer showed me his favorite hiding spots for taking naps, explained to me that he doesn’t carry a long gun in his vehicle because, in his words, ‘anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork, and you’re going to find me as far away from it.’

“He took two lunch breaks and attended a going-away party for one of his fellow officers.”

Zimmerman also said Tooley should be denied a pension.

“I would like to know what actions the commission is taking to repeal Mr. Tooley’s pension. I am not asking you to repeal his pension. I believe he has already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up, corruption and what happened in his department.”

Report: 4 Martin shooting witnesses change story

Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lawyer in the Martin shooting, said his client was concerned about fairness.

“I think he was upset with the cops, because they treated the homeless guy poorly and treated Collison very well,” O’Mara told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. “At the [community] meeting, he was like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ ”

Sanford Interim Police Chief Richard Myers said in a statement Wednesday it would be “inappropriate” to draw any conclusions from Zimmerman’s January 2011 comments at the forum.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for shooting Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford. The 17-year-old Martin was walking back to a townhome where he was staying when he got into a confrontation with Zimmerman, who shot him in the chest at close range.

Zimmerman, who claims the shooting was self-defense, was initially not arrested. But after protests around the country and an investigation by a state prosecutor, he was charged.

Tooley's successor, Bill Lee, temporarily resigned his post following a no-confidence vote by city commissioners.

Lee offered to resign permanently, but commissioners turned down his request. He is on paid leave.

Prosecutors handling the case against Zimmerman on Wednesday asked a judge to keep some evidence from the public, including the results of an unspecified  test police conducted on Zimmerman the day after the shooting and the identities and phone numbers of 22 witnesses.

The Associated Press and's James Eng contributed to this report.

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