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Handicapped parking

An undated photo shows a Baraboo Police Department vehicle parked in a handicapped zone.

A Baraboo police officer who parked in a handicap space won’t be fined, but will face internal consequences with the department.

“That officer has been counseled and it is noted for evaluation purposes,” Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf said in an email Wednesday. “We hope to do better in the future.”

A citizen photographed the officer’s vehicle parked in a handicap space outside a gas station Sunday night, posted the picture to Facebook and reported the incident to the police department.

On Monday afternoon, the department posted a message on Facebook in which it acknowledged the photo and thanked the person who reported it.

“The comment made is exactly correct, that this is not the example we should be setting in our community,” the post said. “The police department will be looking into the circumstances that led to this.”

The incident set off debates on social media, some of which have included distasteful comments by both critics and defenders of the officer.

Schauf said Wednesday the officer was visiting the store as a patron and not in an official capacity. He said the matter will be dealt with internally, and the officer will not be cited.

A state law says those who park in handicap spaces without proper registration may be fined up to $300.

“There will not be a citation issued as it would be issued to the vehicle,” Schauf said Wednesday. “As we investigate these types of cases, it is not uncommon for warnings to be issued. The corrective action taken with the employee’s evaluation will suffice for this incident.”

A Baraboo disability rights advocate said Wednesday that he is satisfied with the department’s response to the incident.

Sauk County Disabled Parking Enforcement Assistance Council Director Steven Pribbenow said Schauf is correct that when a person is not confronted by law enforcement at the scene of a violation, a citation may be issued to the vehicle.

He also said it’s common for police to let first-time offenders off with a warning. When a violation is reported, he said, police often check to see if the vehicle involved has any prior citations for parking in a handicap stall.

“If the vehicle doesn’t show up in a check, it’s usually considered a first-time and they give them a warning,” Pribbenow said. “The officer is more than likely going to wind up with a permanent citation in their record.”

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Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos or contact him at 608-745-3513.