(CBS) ORLANDO, Fla. - A year before George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death, he stood before a City Hall community forum and told the then-mayor elect that Sanford cops are lazy. He came to this conclusion from ride-alongs with the Sanford police, reports The Miami Herald.
"And what I saw was disgusting," Zimmerman said, according to a recording of the January 2011 meeting. "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,'" the Herald reported Zimmerman as saying.
The recording raises new questions in the Trayvon Martin killing about whether Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, may have received preferential treatment during the night of the Feb. 26 shooting because of his familiarity with the police department. Sanford police took a national beating over how they handled Zimmerman's arrest, being widely condemned for letting him go home after initial questioning.
Although Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee denied knowing Zimmerman at the time and said Zimmerman had no relationship with the department, city records show emails exchanged between the two when the neighborhood watch volunteer wrote to praise the department's volunteer program coordinator, the Herald reported.
The State Attorney prosecuting the case released a video last week of Zimmerman freely walking about the police station the night of the shooting, unescorted.
"What are the relationships?," said attorney for the Martin family Natalie Jackson to The Miami Herald. "We have always had a concern about the relationships."
Zimmerman sent in his application for the ride-alongs in March 2010, according to city records. Zimmerman said he wanted to go on the ride-alongs to "solidify my interest in a career in law enforcement." Sanford Police said they have no records showing who Zimmerman rode with.
Interim Police Chief Richard Myers said in a statement Wednesday it would be "inappropriate" to speculate or come to conclusions about Zimmerman's comments at the forum.
"Neither the city manager nor the interim police chief were with the City of Sanford at the time the recording was made, and neither were here during the tenure of the former chief,'' Myers said, according to the newspaper. "As a police chief I embrace the notion that transparency helps build public trust, but in this case, the need to preserve the sanctity of a criminal prosecution, for both the prosecutor and the defense, requires us to eschew making any comments that could taint the process."
Zimmerman, who claims he shot Martin in self-defense, pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and is in hiding.