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.