Corrupt Police Department Disbanded In Florida

The town of Waldo, Florida is one of only two towns in the US listed by AAA as “Speed Traps,” a distinction it shares with Lawley, Florida. The bane of drivers, and their insurance companies for years, Waldo wrote a record 11,603 traffic citations last year.

This push for traffic violations resulted in almost half of the towns $1 million annual budget being covered by court fines. This should have been a red flag, but it took until several officers reported to the city council that the town’s Police Chief, Mike Szabo, has enacted an illegal traffic ticket quota, requiring them to write at least one traffic ticket per hour.

Photo from AAA

Photo from AAA

Initially, the officers attempted to resolve the issue quietly, working through the proper channels and going to the city council to have the problems addressed. Unfortunately, the culture of corruption was too embedded, an issue made clear after the cities manager, Kim Worley, broke whistleblower protection laws and informed the Chief Szabo of the concerns raised to the city council. This forced the officers to go to the media, with their complaint stating,

City manager Worley broke the trust of the concerned members and went straight to Chief Szabo. Chief Szabo then took a retaliatory stance against the members for approximately six months.

This began a month of drama for the town, as the city council attempted to resolve the issues. But last week, they had to conclude, there was no saving the police department. So, they made the decision to disband the police department. The city council now will have to face the reality that they cannot count on a half million in traffic tickets coming through their courthouse next year, a situation which they had likely encouraged, or at least turned a blind eye to. After all, the money was coming from people out-of-town, those who had few options for recourse after being written a ticket.

After the announcement to disband the police department, Waldo police Officer Brandon Roberts, one of the whistleblowers, was quite clearly pleased with the result.

It’s what was right. A lot of people complain about cops not stepping across the blue line, and this is a prime example, because you have to worry about this kind of stuff.

When the police become a revenue source, the chance for corruption increases dramatically. By Waldo relying upon traffic tickets, it corrupted its police force. The only people to blame for the disbanding of the Waldo Police Department are those who let it continue, the city council and voters which turned a blind eye to what was obvious to the rest of the world.

Police are not tax collectors.