Edgewood cops aren't up to speed
About half of the small city's officers are certified to run radar guns for traffic control.

Rich Mckay | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted January 17, 2007

EDGEWOOD -- In a small city infamous as an Orange County speed trap, only about half its police officers are certified to run the radar guns, a staple of any speed enforcement.

That is one of the issues facing police Chief John Tegg as he prepares to get his 11-person police department accredited by the state.

But Tegg said a lack of radar certification "hasn't hampered us at all," with officers spending half their time enforcing traffic laws on a nearly milelong stretch of Orange Avenue that runs through town.

Officers, he said, can make traffic stops based on their professional judgment that someone is speeding or clock the speed by following behind in a patrol car, a practice called "pacing.''

Tegg said he still plans to send his officers to training classes at Valencia Community College soon, when those officers can take other training as well.

To Orlando attorney Joerg Jaeger, who specializes in traffic court, any lack in radar certification is good news -- for people on the receiving end of a ticket.

"It makes me happy," Jaeger said. "Those are tickets that'll never stick."

Records on the number of tickets written in 2006 weren't immediately available. But in November, the latest month for which data are available, Edgewood police officers made 263 traffic stops and wrote 397 traffic citations.

That same month, the city's police were dispatched to 68 calls, responded to 26 alarms and wrote two parking tickets.

John Park, president of the local Police Benevolent Association, strongly defends Tegg and his force.

"Radar is just one tool available to law enforcement," Park said, "a machine witness."

Park said that at the Orange County Sheriff's Office, where he is a deputy, officers typically work in teams, with one person running a radar gun and radioing ahead to another officer, who makes the stop.

Park said small towns get labeled unfairly as speed traps.

AAA rates two cities in Florida -- Waldo in Alachua County and Lawtey just north in Union County -- as speed traps, based on its assessment that the communities are more interested in earning traffic-ticket money than in safety.

Tegg acknowledges that his department places a premium on traffic enforcement simply because of its location southwest of Orlando.

More than 80,000 cars a day go through Edgewood on Orange Avenue and a lot of those people are in a hurry, he said.

"We have people speeding, driving aggressively, running red lights," Tegg said. "We place a premium on enforcement."

And that goes with the department's core duty to protect lives and property, he said.

A high visibility by police along Orange Avenue, the major thoroughfare in town, likely encourages anyone with criminal intentions to go somewhere else, he said.

Tegg knows he is under a microscope as he prepares to give the city an update on everything he has done since he was hired in June -- and he hopes to bolster his chances to become the next Orange County sheriff.

Tegg lost the Republican primary to incumbent Sheriff Kevin Beary.

"Yes, I know that this is a microcosm for the rest of the county," Tegg said. "It's time to show what I can do."

Rich McKay can be reached at rmckay@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5470.

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