People who back Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. are handing out blue and black wristbands that say "I support Chief Billy Lee" and have begun a campaign to return him to office.
Lee, 52, temporarily stepped down March 22 after a firestorm of criticism for refusing to arrest a Neighborhood Watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old on Feb. 26.
Lee said his investigators conducted a thorough and fair investigation but found no solid evidence that George Zimmerman committed a crime. Zimmerman told them he killed Trayvon in self-defense after the 17-year-old knocked him down with a punch then began pounding his head on a sidewalk.
The no-arrest decision sparked demonstrations across the country and led local and national civil rights leaders to call for Lee's dismissal.
At a special meeting March 21, Sanford's city commissioners cast a 3-2 no confidence vote. The next day, Lee temporarily stepped aside, saying he had become a distraction.
City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. is the only one who can fire Lee. He has said he will make no decision on what to do until an outside agency reviews the Sanford Police Department's investigation into Trayvon's death and determines whether it was botched.
An online petition, calling for Lee's return had nearly 800 signatures Friday.
It was started by Sabrina McClellan, 32 of Sanford, whose boyfriend is a Sanford officer. It's intended, she said, to return Lee to active status and to show support for other department employees.
"We're supporting them because we don't think it's fair the whole police department and chief are being judged on this tragedy when the investigation isn't even finished," she said.
She has no idea, she said, if Lee knows about it.
He did not respond Friday to a Sentinel email.
The petition read, in part, "Show our support for Chief Lee and Sanford Police Department. Not only do we want to KEEP CHIEF LEE, but we want him back ASAP!!!!"
Lee is on administrative leave, still drawing his $102,000-a-year paycheck.
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