This is Al Hogle’s legacy: Longboat Key police will give a bicyclist a ride home on a rainy day and put the bicycle on the rack of their cruisers. Or they’ll change a flat tire for a stranded motorist. Or spend extra time with someone who just lost a loved one.
Nearly nine months ago, Longboat Key lost its police chief, Albert F. “Al” Hogle, in a North Carolina motorcycle accident.
Many of the stories local law enforcement shared at Hogle’s funeral focused on his action-packed days in the 1970s and 1980s as an undercover narcotics officer. They remembered him jumping into a canal in pursuit of a suspect during a crack bust and how he helped to bring down seven leaders of a cocaine smuggling ring that he dubbed the Columbia Cartel operation.
The little acts, such as a ride home in the rain or mediating a spat between two neighbors, don’t make for splashy headlines.
But, according to Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming, who was promoted from captain to chief after Hogle’s death, during Hogle’s nine-and-a-half years as the island’s police chief, he sought out experienced people who were also willing to provide extra, one-on-one service.
“Chief Hogle took the Longboat Key Police Department from a police department that you might overlook as being routine to being one of the best small departments in the state,” Cumming said.
Since Hogle’s death, the community has come together to memorialize the late police chief.
The First Responder Golf Tournament at the Longboat Key Club and Resort was named for Hogle, as were the awards at the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce Triathlon.
In October, the town planted a magnolia tree outside the police department with a plaque dedicating it to Hogle.
Now, the Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key will recognize Hogle posthumously with its 2012 Citizen of the Year Award.
According to Kiwanis Club Secretary John Wild, the selection committee voted unanimously for Hogle as this year’s honoree.
“He had three things going for him,” Wild said. “No. 1, he was a veteran. No. 2, he was a Kiwanian. And No. 3, he was a great guy. We wanted to recognize that.”
Hogle’s path to a career in law enforcement began on a Sarasota road.
The Gulfport, Miss., native had returned to Sarasota, where he spent most of his childhood, after two years of U.S. Air Force service, including 13 months in Korea as a K-9 handler and military police officer.
Sarasota police officer Brian Shumway pulled Hogle over for speeding on his motorcycle. The two chatted about law enforcement, and Hogle applied for a job with the Sarasota Police Department.
Hogle’s widow, Leslie, doesn’t think that her husband dreamed about becoming a police officer as a little boy.
“I think it was just kind of the luck of the draw,” she said. “He comes from a kind of hands-on, work-on-your-cars and-build-things background. Personally, I think it was fate.”
The Sarasota Police Department hired Hogle in 1970.
He served as a dispatcher, before becoming a police officer and spending much of his early career in the 1970s and 1980s doing undercover narcotics work. He rose from detective to lieutenant to captain.
He achieved legendary status among local law enforcement. He led a narcotics division that made more than 500 arrests in a year and helped to bring down seven leaders of a cocaine smuggling ring. He also developed a reputation for mentoring young police officers.
Just as Leslie Hogle believes fate meant for her husband to enter law enforcement, she believes that fate meant for their paths to cross.
In 1991, she was at the YMCA with her friend when she heard a “Hey, you!”
Hogle was jogging with a buddy, who approached her.
“This is my friend, Al, and he wants to meet you,” he said.
“I looked at those eyes and it was unbelievable,” Leslie Hogle said.
Her friend saw the instant spark.
When Leslie Hogle arrived at work the next day, the staff had already heard from her friend that she had met a man and was going to marry him. Six weeks later, they became husband and wife.
“From that point on, we were a team,” she said. “Nobody could have written our story.”
Hogle went on to serve for three years on the Sarasota City Commission following his retirement in 1998 and was mayor for five months before taking the job of Bradenton police chief in 2001.
In late 2002, Hogle accepted an invitation for lunch from Town Manager Bruce St. Denis. He thought he’d be advising St. Denis about hiring a new police chief. Instead, St. Denis offered him the job.
Hogle initially rejected the offer but called back a few days later to accept it.
Leslie Hogle said that other police chiefs used to chide her husband about having the easy job after he took the Longboat Key chief position.
Maybe the teasing annoyed him at first, but he took pride in providing a different level of service.
“I think he just wanted to do the best job he could do out there, not just for the town and department, but for the citizens,” Leslie Hogle said. “Wherever he was, he tried to make it a better place.”
Hogle implemented a variety of practical improvements in the department including upgrading software and equipment and requiring additional training, according to Cumming. His vision of placing license-plate recognition cameras at both ends of the island to reduce crime is inching its way through state bureaucracy and closer toward fruition.
“I’ve known Chief Hogle for 30 years, and we’ve paralleled a lot in our careers,” Cumming said. “I can’t think of a finer man in law enforcement.”
Al Hogle made every one of the 21 Valentine’s Days he and Leslie spent together special.
Usually, the Hogles would “remarry” each other by renewing their vows at the service that Sarasota County Judge Becky Titus holds for couples on the beach.
This year, the Kiwanis Foundation will honor Hogle at its Valentine’s Ball.
Leslie Hogle said that she hesitated initially when she learned that her husband would be honored on Valentine’s Day, thinking it might be sad because the holiday was always so special to them, but she quickly changed her mind.
Instead, she, along with Hogle’s only daughter, Sandy, and several other family members will attend the event.
Leslie Hogle is honored that her husband will receive the award.
“People haven’t forgotten him,” she said. “It’s almost incomprehensible for me, knowing that he had such an impact on people.”
IF YOU GO
Longboat Key Kiwanis Foundation Valentine’s Ball
When: 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14
Where: Longboat Key Club and Resort Harbourside Dining Room, 3100 Harbourside Drive
Tickets: $95 per person, $50 of which is tax deductible; corporate tables are $1,000 for 10 seats, with a $500 tax deduction available
Contact: Rick Crawford, 706-1983, [email protected]