Law enforcement and religious leaders prepare for Zimmerman verdict

TAMPA - Frank Peterman, Jr., served St. Petersburg as a councilman and a state legislator.  He's now a pastor, and long before the George Zmmerman murder trial even started, he preached his message.

"I certainly hope there is a sense of decorum and peace, but at the same time, I hope there is a justified verdict to make sure justice is served," said Peterman.

Peterman said he's worried a 'not guilty' verdict would not go over well, especially in his community of St. Petersburg.  

In 1996, riots erupted after police killed a black teen.  A grand jury cleared the officers involved.

For years afterward, the city battled racial tensions.
 
"Whether that response is appropriate or not, St. Pete has a history of responding to issues to people who have been mistreated," said Peterman.

A spokesperson with St. Pete Police Department, Mike Puetz said,  "We are ready to address any major issue, but there is no indication of any threat of violence as a result of any verdict in Sanford.

A Pinellas Sheriff's Office spokesperson said deputies are aware of an impending verdict and are closely monitoring the situation, as is Sheriff Grady Judd.

Polk County is the closet law enforcement agency in our area to Sanford.

A typically outspoken Judd only said there is a plan in place, but would not elaborate beyond that.

"As far as safety and security for the community at large, whether it is Polk County or wherever it is, we do not discuss specific security plans," said Judd.  

Broward County is preparing, and a spokesperson from the sheriff's office there said they are working closely with Sanford's law enforcement.  Sheriff Scott Israel just released a public service announcement, using the help of local teenager, encouraging people to "raise your voice, not your arms."

Peterman said he's reached out to local leaders.

"If anything, we have to be using our resources and authority to open up public spaces so we can have public discourse immediately, and discuss what this means and how our community can respond in a correct way."

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