Corruption in the City of Waldo exposed

 

Waldo, Florida Police Department, speed trap, ocala news, marion county

Waldo, Florida — Many have heard the shocking stories about a little Florida town named Waldo — also known as America’s Worst Speed Trap.

Over the years multiple complaints have been filed against the Waldo Police Department in regards to the tactics used by their police force.  And with every complaint, city officials turned their heads.

Yesterday, five Waldo Police Officers came forward and told city council that they had been under strict orders to meet a quota for traffic tickets under the command of Waldo Police Chief Mike Szabo and City Manager Kim Worley.

Writing tickets to meet a quota is against the law in Florida.

Officer Brandon Roberts, waldo police, speed trap

Officer Brandon Roberts

Officer Brandon Roberts told council members that officers were required to write 12 tickets per 12-hour shift  and if they did not they would face disciplinary action. Roberts also provided e-mails as evidence.

Roberts also said that Chief Szabo kept a cooler in his office filled with drugs that had been seized instead of keeping them properly locked away in evidence. “Anyone could have access to the cooler, even the cleaning crew,” said Roberts.

The speed trap set up in Waldo has also been deemed illegal.

Officer Roberts said that officers wrote many tickets, but did so with heavy hearts.

Corruption in Waldo is nothing new. In 2003, former Waldo Police Officer Chris Kirkland wrote a book entitled “Americas Worst Speeding  Trap: A Former Officer’s View.” The book was based on his firsthand experiences as a police officer in Waldo.

In the book , Officer  Kirkland described how officers were required to meet quotas, set up speed traps, and use coercion to generate money for the town.

Former Police Chief A.W. Smith was in charge at the time. Smith called the book “a work of extreme imagination.”

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has been very open with its criticism toward Waldo city officials and its police department.

According to AAA, Waldo City Officials have ignored corruption in their town for nearly two decades.

Former Officer Kirkland, along with AAA, agree that the motivation for corruption in Waldo has always been money.

Waldo police have also been accused of illegally coercing people into police searches of their vehicles, often times pulling motorist from their vehicles and cuffing them while their vehicles were searched.

Many motorist have complained that Waldo police used the “I smell marijuana” tactic to search their vehicle.

Ocklawaha, Florida resident Carla Haskell, e-mailed Ocala Post with the following:

In September of 2013, I was working in Charlotte, NC with my sister and best friend. We would come home on most weekends and then head back to Charlotte for the work week. We were headed back mid morning on a Sunday and drove through Waldo. While passing through, I pulled into the Kangaroo to grab drinks and when we went to exit the vehicle there was a Waldo cop behind me exiting his vehicle with his hand on his gun.

He walked over to my vehicle while yelling at us to stay inside. He then proceeded to reach his hand into my truck and open all my windows using the electric window panel on the door. He then demanded ID from everyone in the vehicle. I thought it was a normal traffic stop.

The officer said I was speeding, but I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as he claimed I was. A second cop showed up and we were asked to exit the vehicle. The first cop asked if he could search my vehicle and I said, “No, I do not consent to any searches.” The officer replied, “Yeah, well I just wanted to see what you would say because I am going to search it anyway… I smell marijuana.”

He didn’t smell anything as no one smokes or had smoked marijuana; he just needed something for probable cause.

We were asked to stand in the rear of my vehicle while he ripped my truck apart. We were asked where we were going, what we did for work, why we commuted to another state, and how much money we made. The second cop even asked where I purchased my sandals from.

The first cop claimed to find a “green leafy substance” on my floor board and then in my purse, at which point I stated he had absolutely found nothing that could have been illegal in my possession. He stated the odor was coming from the rear of the vehicle, yet his focus was on the front of the vehicle, our purses, and glove compartment. He opened the rear where we had luggage, bags etc. He then unzipped one compartment on a duffle bag and shut the hatch.

He walked back around and said if you have illegal drugs you need to tell me now before I find them and take “your ass” to jail. I still stated I had ZERO illegal substances in my possession or in my vehicle and he wasn’t going to find anything. He continued the search on the floor boards for an additional 15 minutes. Then he came around the vehicle and told me I had one more chance to confess. Told him I have nothing to confess to, I did nothing wrong. He said he found a substance, but wasn’t going to test it because he didn’t want to take me to jail. I immediately consented to him testing it. In fact, I told him to test it, at which point he said, “I just told you I am not testing it.” He proceeded to write me a $300 speeding ticket and told me to get my truck cleaned. Left the contents of our purses and my truck compartments all over the seats and the floor.

My sister went into the store and bought the drinks we had stopped for, at which time the store clerk said, “Let me guess, he smelled marijuana.  He does that all the time as probable cause to do his illegal searches.”

We were humiliated in a store parking lot… made to look like criminals in public. And delayed our eight our trip by an hour and a half.

The American Automobile Association said that small towns always think corruption will be overlooked, but they eventually get caught.

According to their records, AAA said more than half of Waldo’s $1 million budget comes from revenue produced by traffic tickets.

Chief Szabo did not attend the meeting. He has been suspended with pay.

The investigation is now in the hands of FDLE.

Published by on Aug 27 2014. Filed under COPS AND CRIME, Florida. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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  • Joel Hickman

    Many will say that Ocala Police do not have a qouta. When in actuallity they have in the past and may still have. At meetings it will be said that ” we would like for you to complete 3 traffic citations” Officers that dont meet the recommended amount get placed on dutys that others dont want to do. Or atleast they use to. I dont know if this is the case now. Officers and Deputy’s actually get letters of recommendations and achievement for the different types of stops and encounters that they meet while on patrol in a month. Kinda like a Gold Star system that was used in Kindergarden

  • Jerry3701

    Any one that drives though Waldo knows of the speed traps.

  • Robbins Mitchell

    Where’s Waldo?

  • JoeThePimpernel

    You ain’t seen nothing, yet.

    Soon Ubama’s adult MS-13 “unaccompanied children” will be applying for jobs as police officers.

    Then you are going to see what “change” REALLY looks like.

    • John Snow

      You are completely insane.

  • Joe Krozac

    With irrefutable evidence of corruption in the form of emails and the testimony of Waldo police officers, WHY is that corrupt sack o’ sh*t Mike Szabo being suspended WITH PAY?

    The entire region is notorious for this sort of corruption, there was former Chiefland Police Chief Don Anderson, convicted in federal court of selling drugs out of his evidence room, his long time pal Mike Edwards (Chief of Police in Trenton, Gilchrist County just up the road) swearing to Anderson’s innocence although Edwards was later fired by the City of Trenton and his department dissolved.

    Then there was Gilchrist County Sheriff Jim Floyd, who used the services of federal prisoners temporarily housed in his jail, to serve as chauffeurs, errand boys, chefs, etc., those lucky chumps literally dined on steak and lobster in Floyd’s jail, and it doesn’t stop there, just head on into Dixie County where it was reported that public officials “Big John” Driggers, Alton Land and Willie Dewey “Billy” Keen Jr.told an undercover FBI agent investigating their shenanigans that “they just preferred cash”.

    Oh the speed trap and police corruption in Waldo is only a pimple on the face of North Central Florida.

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