Waldo cops describe ticket quotas

By Chris Parenteau, General assignment reporter, cparenteau@wjxt.com
Associated Press
Published On: Aug 27 2014 08:58:56 AM EDT
Updated On: Aug 28 2014 12:02:39 AM EDT

A local police chief is suspended tonight as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates a possible speeding ticket scandal. The chief is accused of breaking state law and forcing his officers to do the same.

WALDO, Fla. -

Four Florida police officers told the Waldo City Council that they've been under a quota to write traffic tickets, which is a violation of Florida law.

The Gainesville Sun reported that Officer Brandon Roberts told council members Tuesday night they were required by Chief Mike Szabo to write 12 speeding tickets per 12-hour shift or face punishment. He offered an electronic presentation and printed emails as evidence.

Roberts said they were speaking up because they no longer have faith in their "chain of command."

Waldo was ranked as the nation's third worst speed trap by a national publication in 2012. The Sun reports that documents show about half the city's $1 million budget comes from an item listed as "police revenue."

Szabo, chief since 2007, was suspended Aug. 12 pending a state investigation.

(Pictured: Waldo police officers appear before City Council. Courtesy: WCJB)

The City Manager in Waldo released more that 100 pages of documents filed by Officer Brandon Roberts, Officer Tim Logan, Officer Brian Shoaf and K9 Corporal Jeff Pedrick showing the alleged misconduct. In an "end of shift report" email from Shoaf to Szabo for his shift on June 18, Shoaf reports writing five tickets -- four for speeding and one for careless driving. The email response from Szabo just over six hours later was, "Seems like you have some work to do when you come in "

In an email from 2011 to the department, Szabo said the department needed to issue citations for the state's "move over" law. But "I do not want you to think that in any way those numbers count toward any other paperwork that you may have for the day."

"That's just awful to put the officer under that much pressure and to do it to the motorists," said Jim Mitzel, who drives through Waldo often. "The locals know where the officers, but out-of-towners and travelers, it just makes this town look bad."

Locals say they know the spots the officers wait for speeders. Drivers say ticketing drivers is fine if they deserve it, but not because of a quota. They say the chief should face punishment if these allegations are proven true.

"I think he should be fired, fired on the spot," one driver said.

"I suggest they terminate him altogether and find a new chief of police," Mitzel said. "That's just awful to do to the general public. He doesn't deserve to keep his position if that allegation is true."

The City Manager of Waldo said Wednesday, "The city takes these allegations very seriously, and we are working with our counsel to determine the best course of action. The council granted the city time to investigate the available options and to report back with a plan of action."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating.

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