Speed trap indeed: Waldo cops say they've been under ticket quotas (w/video)

A sign erected by AAA outside Waldo attests to the North Florida town’s statewide reputation as a speed trap.
A sign erected by AAA outside Waldo attests to the North Florida town’s statewide reputation as a speed trap.
Published Aug. 29, 2014

WALDO — Anyone who has received a speeding ticket in Waldo has probably suspected that officers were acting under a quota.

After all, Waldo was ranked as the nation's third-worst speed trap by a national publication in 2012. And its reputation is ingrained in Florida culture.

Turns out the suspicion about a quota may be on target.

The Gainesville Sun is reporting that five of the seven officers with the Waldo Police Department have told city leaders that police Chief Mike Szabo required officers to write a speeding ticket during every hour of their shifts.

Quotas are illegal.

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

"Looks like you have some work to do when you come in," Szabo wrote in an email to an officer who had written only four speeding tickets.

Roberts said he and the other officers were speaking up because they no longer have faith in their "chain of command."

Szabo was suspended Aug. 12 pending a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into a separate allegation that he violated police procedure.

In their presentation to city leaders, the officers also said Szabo frequently abandoned his post and disabled equipment to cover his tracks, the Sun reports.

The officer put in charge of the department after the suspension, Cpl. Kenneth Smith, has also been placed on administrative leave after allegations from fellow officers that he installed city-owned surveillance equipment for personal use and improperly stored evidence.

The officers said Smith used city-owned video equipment to monitor the parking lot of his apartment. They also said he liked to steal hotel towels, which officers said proved he stayed in lavish hotels on a tight city budget, the Sun reported.

Waldo City Manager Kim Worley announced Smith's leave on Thursday and asked for a commander from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office to take over while the issues are being resolved.

The Sun also reported that documents show about half the city's $1 million budget comes from an item listed as "police revenue."