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Underdog finally wins: Police chiefs suspended for unlawful speed traps

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speed-trap1A small Florida town known as a speed trap is at the center of a scandal after allegations that its officers improperly target motorists to generate revenue.

Two police officials have been suspended after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into alleged improprieties in the police department’s ticket-writing practices, ABC News reported.

During a Waldo City Council meeting in August, a group of police officers said Chief Mike Szabo ordered them to write at least 12 tickets during each 12-hour shift or face repercussions. Under Florida law, ticket quotas are illegal, according to ABC News.

Cpl. Kenneth Smith, chosen as Szabo’s replacement, was also suspended after officers accused him of mishandling evidence and other improprieties, the network reported.

Court fines for traffic tickets make up about half of the small town’s $1 million budget, according to the report.
Waldo, located between Jacksonville and Gainesville, requires drivers to change speed six times, varying between 65 mph and 35 mph, over a small stretch of highway.

The AAA driving club, which has named Waldo one of two “traffic traps” in America, uses billboards on the outskirts of town to warn drivers to slow down before entering.

AAA officials told ABC News that the group opposes traffic enforcement practices that are designed to raise revenue rather than increase road safety.

Speed limits are set by the Florida Department of Transportation, which factored in requests form Waldo city officials when setting the town’s speed limits, agency officials told ABC News. The limits are legal, the officials added, but police officers are responsible for enforcing them appropriately.

Some Waldo residents said they were happy the matter is being investigated.

“If I had a light out on my trailer, they’ll pull me over for that, for anything,” said longtime resident Mike Barrs, 35, estimating that he’s gotten at least 20 tickets.

Amanda Shea


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