WALDO, Fla. - The Waldo Police Department will no longer exist and its five officers will officially be out of jobs, effective Oct. 31.
The Waldo City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to disband the police department and have all law enforcement functions in Waldo be taken over by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
The current Waldo police officers will be on paid administrative leave until Oct. 31 while they seek other employment.
Over the last several weeks, the small town police department has been making headlines after state investigations were launched into illegal activities, including speeding ticket quotas.
Council members said they made the decision with heavy hearts because the money just isn't there to run the department.
"I don't want to be put in this situation again, really," said City Councilman Irvin Jackson. "To tell some people who work hard for me all the time that we don't want you around anymore."
Officer Roy Steadman and his wife Christina said their new full time job will be finding Steadman's next full-time job.
"We've got two girls at the house and one of them is chronically ill and that throws this a little," Roy Steadman said. "Losing the jobs and losing the benefits will be a hard hit for us."
It was standing room only at Tuesday's council meeting.
Many passionate residents spoke at the meting about potential delayed response times that would come with this decision and a possible uptick in local crime without the town's own police force.
After more than 90 minutes of back and forth, crunching numbers and some tearful pleas to find another solution, the council announced it had no choice but to dissolve the department.
In August, Waldo's police chief was suspended after officers accused him of having a ticket quota, which is illegal in Florida. The officers claim they were ordered to write 12 tickets per 12-hour shift or face some harsh consequences.
Since then, the Alachua County Sheriff's Office has taken over.
Timothy Logan, a 6-year veteran with the Waldo Police Department, said this will have an overwhelming impact on his family financially, but he hasn't given up hope of a career in law enforcement.
"We spoke our mind. We told the city what the issues were, and it was up to them to fix them, and this is the outcome unfortunately," Logan said. "I don't fault the city and think it was in their best interest."
There will be another City Council meeting on Oct. 14 to discuss how to handle paying officers for any overtime, vacation and sick time they still have on the books.
A spokesperson with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office said the details about how the sheriff's office will manage and cover the extra area in Waldo will have to be ironed out over the next 30 days. The spokesperson said there could be one or two deputies who are assigned to the Waldo area and service should not be interrupted in any way for residents there.
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