Monday, April 9, 2012

Wascally wily wabbit

Photo courtesy of Arvind Balaraman
What’s with this nutty tradition of Florida law enforcement officers dressing up in bizarre disguises to bust traffic violators? In the past, sheriff’s officers with radar guns have dressed up as elves at Christmas, Uncle Sam, prostitutes and homeless dudes. All in the line of duty.

Several years ago we reported a story about an officer dressed as the Grinch, complete with green face paint, ticketing speeders at the rate of one per minute on the city’s Orange Blossom Trail. The Grinch handed out about 200 tickets in just a few hours.

In ’08 they wore the red elf outfits with curly pointy elf shoes. It was pretty cracked. How did they get those cops to do that?

The Grinch and the elves were, however, outdone by one West Palm Beach’s finest, aka “Officer Delicious” hanging in a wild red wig, short skirt and sexy black boots. A fine photo of Officer Delicious sending a radio message to other officers describing a red light runner was captured by an enterprising photographer from the Orlando Sentinel. I wonder what disguise the photographer was wearing to get that close-up photo?

Another bizarre ruse that’s a Florida fave is the cop posing as a homeless man in an old robe. Then there are the two lawmen in orange helmets and orange vests staking out the local traffic dressed as construction dudes and one officer who appears to be lounging in a golf cart while aiming his radar at traffic.

My favorite – also documented by the Orlando Sentinel – the photo of a deputy concealing himself and a radar device inside a big cardboard box near a sidewalk and half concealed by some big plants. From his box overlooking University Boulevard in Orange County, it was his job to clock motorists' speeds, then radio information on speeders to motorcycle deputies waiting to make the traffic stops. The cardbox box looked like one of those old appliance boxes we used to play in when I was a kid, complete with the cut-out peephole.

Holidays seem to bring out the creativity in the force because they are back at it.

In West Palm Beach, Florida motorists at one intersection were greeted by a big Easter rabbit over the weekend. The rabbit held a sign saying, “Have a hoppy holiday.” Turns out it was a cop inside the costume noting whether drivers were wearing seat belts.

So what’s next? Mother’s Day is coming up in May, so if you drive in Florida keep your eyes peeled for sweet little old ladies with radar guns. The undercover officers on that task force are probably in training right now for the job at hand, shopping at the Salvation Army store and studying old Tyler Perry movies.

5 comments:

  1. Given the amount of crime consuming half of Orlando, writing seat belt tickets on a street where bumper-to-bumper traffic moves at less than 5 MPH most of the day strikes me as a tremendous waste of public funds and resources...

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  2. I agree on the passed law. It makes me feel safe.

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  3. Experienced push-the-speed-envelope drivers with sharp eyes can spot a "bear" a mile away even in a plain wrapper. The reaction is to slow down to posted speed until beyond the speed trap then return to previous speed. A ticket is avoided but no behavior change has occurred. However, if you actually get a ticket, you might consider more closely monitoring your speed vis-a-vis posted limits. When I was younger I would have thought costumed cops were playing "dirty pool" but older now I've seen drivers bad mouthing cops for doing their quota thing, accusing the cops of anti-driver conspiracies and killing people with out-of-control driving. If wearing costumes can achieve driver behavior improvement then I'd say the police are accomplishing the job we're paying them to do.

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  4. Most cities in Florida have responsible law enforcement practices, but a few cities are taking traffic enforcement to new lows.

    Some municipalities in Florida have used law enforcement as an additional source of revenue during these tough economic times. I was given citations by officers for 6 & 7 miles over the limit, and while I would agree that was over the posted speed, I don't believe that lives are in danger at those speeds.

    I have heard of business owners being cited for putting money in parking meters for customers in their shops when the meter maids were approaching. One would expect this type of behavior from a banana republic, but the truth is some small municipalities are run that way. Realize this is the environment that we live in and deal with it accordingly. Drive dead on the speed limit with your seat belt on and set your cruise control to stay at the posted speed. I just smile and wave politely when I pass speed traps while I think not me today city of So and So.

    Maybe we should set up a boycott website to protest overzealous traffic enforcement. If we avoid businesses in those towns maybe the cops will get the memo if businesses in that area start to feel the pinch.

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  5. HMMMM, although I don't agree with the over zealousness of law enforcement and their over abundance of issued citations for the purpose of generating revenue, I'd have to say that I do frown when I see a motorist peeling a layer of rubber driving down a residential street. I have children that play out in my front yard and when I see this sort of activity, it just annoys the hell out of me. It's times like these when you say, "where are the cops when you need one?"

    Let's try and maintain an equal balance, shall we?

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