Saturday, June 23, 2018
Public safety

Largo police officer named Florida's Traffic Officer of the Year

LARGO — Officer Kurt Iskra can be found at Largo's busiest intersections, at the city's worst crash sites or pulling over people whose speeding or impaired driving endangers other motorists.

A 10-year veteran of the Largo police force, Iskra, 36, specializes in enforcing traffic laws, investigating vehicular homicides and educating the public about auto and bike safety.

He's so good at his job that the Florida Law Enforcement Liaison Program, a group that works to make the state's roads safer, recently named him "Traffic Officer of the Year" in a ceremony in Orlando. Iskra was in a field of 100 nominees for the award.

"He is an employee who gives 110 percent," said Sgt. George Edmiston of the Largo Police Department. "He treats everyone with fairness and dignity."

Edmiston, who attended the ceremony with other members of the Largo Traffic Safety Team, said that Iskra has been the department's top producer for the last six years for the "Click It or Ticket" campaign," an effort to enforce seat belt use.

A strict traffic law enforcer, Iskra also issued 3,436 traffic citations in 2011, 1,620 of them for speeding.

Iskra was recognized, though, for more than dispensing tickets.

"He is a firm believer in the three-pronged approach to traffic safety: education, enforcement and engineering," Largo police Chief John Carroll said. "He is an innovator in that he focuses his enforcement efforts on areas plagued by traffic crashes and in areas of increased hazard due to road construction or heavy traffic volume."

Iskra is quick to respond when someone is injured or killed in an auto accident. The investigation that follows, he said, is no small task.

"When we have a traffic fatality or a serious crash, we must begin a reconstruction of the event to see what happened," Iskra said. "We look at roadway evidence and damage to the vehicles involved and try to piece the accident together backward."

An investigation can take weeks or months to complete. The job is further complicated by drivers leaving the scene of an accident or a lack of witnesses. Iskra said about 50 percent of the time, no viable witnesses are available.

"Trying to close a case that involves a hit and run driver is a real challenge," he said. "Even if you locate the vehicle, you still have to put someone behind the wheel when it happened."

In the eight years he's been investigating traffic homicides, Iskra has proven to be a leader in vehicular homicide investigations.

"His investigations are meticulous and well-documented," Edmiston said.

Iskra said he finds gratification in homicide investigations as well as in traffic law enforcement.

"In traffic law enforcement, we can hopefully prevent someone from being involved in a crash," he said. "In traffic homicides we can give some closure to families of those either killed or seriously injured in a crash."

One additional function of Iskra's job is education. He and fellow officers make the rounds of Largo schools, from elementary to Largo High School, promoting the use of seat belts, the use of helmets and bike lights for cyclists, and the need to be attentive on the road.

"He interacts with the public every day and receives few complaints," Edmiston said. "He is a man of integrity."

Elaine Markowitz can be reached at [email protected]

 
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