Nassau official won't run force marred by Trayvon Martin case

Kevin Canavan, who remains a deputy chief on Kevin Canavan, who remains a deputy chief on the 2,243-officer Nassau police force, is one of five people vying to lead the 121-officer police department in Sanford, Fla., where the former chief was fired amid the scandal. Photo Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile, 2006

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A high-ranking Nassau County police official has not been picked to lead the Florida department that sparked nationwide protests last year by failing to charge the accused killer of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, according to the city.

Kevin Canavan, one of five finalists for the job, remains a deputy chief of the 2,243-officer Nassau department. He sought to head the 121-officer force in Sanford, where the former chief was fired amid the scandal.

Sanford instead picked Cecil E. Smith, deputy chief of the Elgin, Ill., police department -- a city about 40 miles northwest of Chicago.

According to Lisa Mosca, Sanford city spokeswoman, the offer to Smith was made Tuesday morning by City Manager Norton Bonaparte. "Last week Mr. Bonaparte visited Elgin and met with various community leaders," she said in a statement.

Canavan, 53, a Nassau police officer since May 1985, is a former precinct commander and works in the chief of patrol's office, overseeing units such as Highway Patrol, Marine / Aviation and the elite Bureau of Special Operations. He earned $185,362 in 2011, the most recent available figures.

Through Officer Steven Zacchia, a Nassau police spokesman, Canavan declined to comment.

If he had been hired for the Sanford job, which according to a city spokeswoman pays $110,469 in a state with no income tax, Canavan would have been able to collect his full New York State pension.

The Sanford police force drew national attention in February 2012 when Martin was slain in a confrontation with George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch member who told police he thought Martin looked suspicious. The department initially failed to arrest Zimmerman, but a state prosecutor later charged him with murder. The case is pending.

In June, Sanford's chief, Bill R. Lee Jr., was fired by the city manager, who said: "We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support."

At the Nassau police department, which has weathered its own recent scandals, Canavan was one of the high-ranking chiefs credited last summer with uncovering crime-statistics fudging by a now-demoted precinct commander.

During a finalists' forum earlier this month, Canavan touted the Nassau department's pro-diversity stance, according to the Orlando Sentinel: He mentioned how Nassau -- a county with a large Sikh population -- recently began letting its Sikh officers wear turbans.

The other finalists were a Florida state attorney's investigator; a public integrity director for the Rochester, N.Y., police; and a deputy chief of Clearwater, Fla., police. The five were picked from among 76 applicants.

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