Make us your home page

Ruth: Where's Waldo? Corner of Scam and Fine

There are at least 11,630 crime stories in the "Naked City" of Waldo. Unfortunately, all of them are boring and about the same.

This was hardly a "Stop the presses!" "Get me rewrite, baby!" Johnny Deadline scoop of the century when a group of Waldo Police Department officers fessed up to what thousands of motorists, AAA, Interpol and the Visiting Nurses Association already knew.

Yes, it's true — the Waldo constabulary has indeed been acting under strict orders to fulfill speeding ticket quotas. No! Really?

For more years than anyone can remember, a trip through Waldo (size: 2.2 square miles; population: 1,022; century: 1800s) has offered the distinct possibility of getting stopped by one of the hamlet's seven officers after entering a Twilight Zone of six quickly shifting speed limits.

The intentional confusion resulted in 11,630 speeding tickets in 2013, contributing about half of Waldo's $1 million annual budget. Where did the other half come from? Cracking down on mattress tag removals? Driving while under the influence of Mountain Dew? Speaking with a premeditated Northern accent? Waldo holds the per capita title as the municipal shakedown ruse capital of the nation.

According to the Gainesville Sun, five officers told Waldo city leaders they were under orders to write at least one speeding ticket an hour over the course of a 12-hour shift. That averages out to 1,657 tickets annually per cop. But the bigger question is that after years of being held up as a bigger goober police department than the administration of Sheriff Buford T. Justice, the village's administrators just now figured out something was rotten in Waldo?

Police Chief Mike Szabo and his aide-de-grifter, Cpl. Kenneth Smith, have been suspended from their duties, which presumably entailed laughing at the chumps caught in their Deliverance meets Dragnet racket.

With a hapless police department that makes Barney Fife look like Hercule Poirot, one can only wonder what the interview process was like to become part of Waldo's Thin Phooey Line, whose motto ought to be: "To Blur and Neglect."

"Pardon the powdered sugar all over my uniform, boy. I just can't get enough of these doughnuts. I'm Chief Mike Szabo, the Grand Wazir of Waldo. And you are?"

"Jasper P. Beauregard, sir, but you can call me Billy Bob Bubba Jimbo Cletus Ray."

"Okay Homer. Now we run very professional operation here at the Waldo Outhouse of Justice. How much law enforcement experience do you have?"

"Well I was a hall monitor over at Ted Nugent Middle School."

"Hmmmm, you might be overqualified for the job, Otis. Have you ever handled a speed gun before?"

"Only to shoot opossums, sir."

"I might just promote you to lieutenant, Festus. But before I hire you I want to know if you'll have any problem meeting the official WPD quota of writing at least one speeding ticket for every hour you are on duty."

"Does that involve knowing how to read and write, sir?"

"Naw, not really. In fact, it might actually be an asset by speeding up (no pun intended) the process. I can show you where to put all the Xs on the ticket form ahead of time."

"Sir, I do have one question. Aside from the speeding ticket factory, what are the other crime problems in Waldo?"

"I have no idea, Boomer. No crime pays better than a sudden drop from 50 mph to 30 mph over the course of 15 yards. Welcome aboard, son. Here's a few boxes of Cracker Jack. I'm sure you'll find a badge in one of them."

"Gee thanks, chief. I notice a funeral procession going through town. Why, there's a good 15 or 20 tickets right there!"

"Forget lieutenant. You're now a captain."

"That's mighty nice of you sir. May I suggest the department get one of those fancy military surplus, 20,000-ton MRAPs? The government is giving them away for free."

"And how will a MRAP assist us in combating the scourge of 40 mph drivers threatening the great metropolis of Waldo, Gomer?"

"It won't do a thing, sir, but they look really cool."

"Son, you just made major."

And so it goes along the greed streets of the nation's laughingstock of scofflaw gendarmes. Dong-Dong. Welcome to Law & Order — Waldo. In the criminal justice system in Waldo the city's exchequer is represented by two separate yet equally duplicitous groups — the police, who finagled faux speeding violations, and the city hall lemmings who cashed the checks.

Ruth: Where's Waldo? Corner of Scam and Fine 09/03/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 4:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours