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UCF Leader in Criminal Law to Facilitate Sanford's Blue Ribbon Panel

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By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala

Less than a year after taking the helm of the University of Central Florida's Department of Legal Studies Center for Law and Policy, Cynthia Schmidt has been asked to facilitate a blue ribbon panel aimed at establishing trust and communication between Sanford Police and its community. 

Sanford created a Police Community Relations Blue Ribbon Panel with members from a wide cross section of the community. The group is charged with making recommendations for: strengthening the relationships between police and the community based on trust, inclusion and respect; promoting and practicing effective communication that crosses racial, cultural and ethnic barriers; and creating a shared vision and commitment to community policing and crime prevention.

City officials asked long-time attorney Schmidt to facilitate the meetings with the 25-member panel over the next five to six months. The group is expected to meet twice a month until it finishes its work. 

"The blue ribbon panel will be doing important work and I'm honored to assist," said Schmidt, director of the center. "When the center was created, the focus was designed to be broad so it could react to the needs of the community. This is the kind of work we hoped to be a part of in our community."  

The center aims to develop, share and promote innovative ideas that advance the legal field and benefit the broader community while also providing public service to the community through partnerships.  

Schmidt, who graduated with a degree in legal studies from UCF in 1987, earned her law degree from the University of Florida's Levin College of Law in 1990. She served as an assistant public defender in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for 10 years and was recognized for her excellence with the Franklin Graham Award. She also had a private practice for years handling a variety of cases from misdemeanors to complicated sex crime cases and federal drug cases. In 2005 she was elected president of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  

In 2005, she began teaching at Boone High School in Orlando and later as an adjunct at UCF. The American Lawyers Auxiliary gave her second place in the 2010 national High School Related Education Teacher of the Year award. 

In 2012, after an extensive national search, Schmidt was selected as the founding director of the Center for Law and Policy. 

Throughout her entire career she's continued to be active in several associations including the Orange County Bar Association and the Legal Aid Society. In April, the association recognized her community service with the Liberty Bell award.  

"We are honored that Dr. Schmidt has been asked to assume this important role," said Michael Frumkin, dean of the College of Health and Public Affairs, which houses the center. "Her skills at mediation, built on her long experience in building positive community relationships, make her ideal for this task of community healing in Sanford."

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