Do-good parks caretaker fined for his effort

County employee handed $565 citation after chasing car in what he says was attempt to protect Waubedonia campers
By 
DAN BENSON
Ozaukee Press Staff

An Ozaukee County parks caretaker is facing a $565 fine for what he believes was doing his job, helping keep campers and other users at Waubedonia Park safe from vehicles speeding through the park.

On July 25, Dennis Peterson said he saw two teenage girls “flying through” a crowded park in their car. He tried to catch up to them to tell them to slow down, but he wasn’t able to.

“They almost ran me off the road,” Peterson said. 

The girls came through again, and this time Peterson was on his motorcycle.

“I went after them and I pulled them over,” he said.

A village police officer soon showed up and took over.

“He said, ‘I’ll handle it. You don’t have to worry about those girls speeding through the park again,’” Peterson said.

Peterson said he considers what he did part of his duty.

“It is my job to take care of my park and keep it clean and maintained and protect the people in it,” he said.

But that’s not how Village Marshal Mike Davel saw it.

Three days later, the officer arrived at Peterson’s door and cited him for disorderly conduct, complete with a $565 fine.

“That’s a pretty hefty fine for me doing my job,” Peterson said.

“I feel I got totally cut down and humiliated for doing my job,” he added. “I don’t want to see a child get hit. The park was full of people and kids that day.” 

Davel said Peterson was in the wrong.

“He was dressed in regular clothes, driving a motorcycle and basically drove in a reckless manner,” said Davel, who also is a Port Washington police captain. 

“These girls had no idea who he was. He blocked their path and prevented them from leaving the park.”

Peterson, who has been with the county for 11 years, said one of the girls was crying when he stopped them.

The girls were not cited.

“We had no indication of how fast they were going,” Davel said.

Peterson said he has often complained to Davel and the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office about speeders in the park, but that so far, little to nothing has happened.

Davel said his officers patrol the park regularly. 

“Every place in the village calls, asking for increased patrols,” he said.

Peterson has not paid the fine. A court date has been set for Oct. 16 in Mid-Moraine Municipal Court.

Peterson said he hasn’t decided whether to fight the ticket. He said he complained to his superiors in the county, but they have not gotten involved.

Peterson’s bosses, county Parks and Planning Director Andrew Struck and county Administrator Jason Dzwinel, did not reply to an email seeking comment.

Peterson said he has stopped cars speeding through the park before. 

“Once one guy came out of the car with a bat,” he said. “I get numerous complaints from campers about people speeding through the park.

“I’m afraid to do anything now. It’s very upsetting.”

What should Peterson have done?

“He should have got the license plate number and called the police,” Davel said.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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