Florida has a speed trap problem; that’s for sure. But one tiny town fed up with the corruption and harassment, decided to end the traffic trap practices, which included an illegal ticket-writing quota system. Wednesday, Waldo City Council voted to disband the city’s police department until community trust can return, according to Business Insider in an October 1 news report.
At the stroke of midnight, the Waldo Police Department put up the closed for business sign. By a vote of 4 to 1, city officials broke apart the law enforcement agency that has served the community — albeit under a veil of scrutiny — for the past five decades.
The speed trap town’s police department has been at odds with its residents over traffic laws in place that make it difficult to comply. At issue were several speed limit signs erected along a two-mile stretch of highway in town. Six signs require drivers to speed up and slow their vehicle down. For instance, a 65 mph zone suddenly becomes 55 mph, which then goes to 45. And after cycling through more up and down speeds, it finally settles down to 35 mph.
Ironically, what led to the police department being disbanded were complaints from all six patrol officers in the town. The whistle blowers filed grievances over the quota system that required each officer to write one ticket for every hour of their 12-hour shifts.
Moreover, a council member said a local prosecutor was threatening to expose the matter to a grand jury, which would not be in the town’s best interests. The nixing of the department comes on the heels of the superintendent and a high-ranking officer serving suspensions over the alleged abuse and in the wake of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) commencing its investigation.
Waldo is nestled in between Gainesville and Jacksonville. Over the years, locals and ticketed motorists in Waldo took to the site National Motorists Association and shared their frustrations with the now disbanded police department.
“It’s probably still not safe to drive through Waldo but it was revealed the “chief” demanded each officer write one speeding ticket per hour. Law enforcement is now done by the county sheriff’s deputies.”
“Waldo. Starke and Baldwin, Florida are notorious, legendary speed traps. These towns fund their budgets with the ticket pad and show no mercy. These police departments make it up as they go along. Infractions are real or imagined. Avoid these towns at all costs…..burn the gas and take the long way around.”
“Anywhere in this town the police lurk all over in unmarked cars. Very difficult to notice 45 mile per hour speed signs when traveling from North to South. On January 9, 2011 we saw four cars pulled over. None of them had been going very fast.”
Not surprisingly, the NMA and AAA voted the Florida town the third “Worst Speed Trap Cities” in North America with populations under 50,000. As of 2012 Waldo contained about 1022 residents, according to City-Data.
Mike Barrs, 35, whose been a Waldo resident for a quite some time, said he’s received nearly two dozen tickets from the speed traps. “If I had a light out on my trailer they’ll pull me over for that, for anything,” he told reporters.
Waldo is not the first town/city to consider disbanding its police department. Hampton, another Florida town, came under fire when its mayor was jailed for drug charges and officers were allegedly involved in illegal speed traps that netted the town over $1 million.
Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is providing security in the meantime.