Year in review: May 2012, 'Loss of a Leader'

 

Year in review: May 2012, 'Loss of a Leader'

 

Date: December 26, 2012
by: Robin Hartill | City Editor

 
 

 

 

The town advertised the position of Longboat Key police chief in late 2002; it received 98 applications.

Four U.S. Marshals wanted the position.

So did supervisors with the Drug Enforcement Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigations, a U.S. Navy regional security director in Pearl Harbor and the leader of the United Nations police mission in Bosnia.

Town Manager Bruce St. Denis was convinced he already knew the man for the job.

He had lunch with Al Hogle, who’d become Bradenton’s police chief 15 months earlier. Hogle described how he would run Longboat Key’s police department. He thought he was just advising St. Denis on his pursuit of a new police chief.

“By the time lunch was over, Al had molded the ideal department he wanted in his head, and I leaned over and told him the job was his if he wanted it,” St. Denis said. 

At first, Hogle rejected the offer, which led the town to advertise the position. But a few days later he called back and accepted the job. He spent the next nine-and-a-half years crafting that department.

Longboat Key Police Chief Albert F. “Al” Hogle, of Sarasota, died Monday, May 14, in a motorcycle accident in North Carolina. He was 63.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Tuesday on its website, citizen-times.com, that the crash occurred at approximately noon Monday on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Hogle’s motorcycle struck a tree while he rode with friends, according to Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi.

Hogle’s longtime friend, Sarasota Police Department Sgt. Jim Henderson, was riding with Hogle and other officers at the time of his death. The Longboat Observer attempted to contact Henderson, but was told he was still out of town and unavailable for comment.

“I can tell you that Sgt. Henderson was with Chief Hogle, and he’s still up there,” said Sarasota Police Lt. Randy Boyd.

Henderson notified Longboat Key Police Capt. Pete Cumming, who, with Capt. Kristina Roberts, Sarasota Police Chief Mikel Holloway, Capt. Lucius Bonner and Capt. Paul Sutton, drove to Sarasota to notify Leslie Hogle of her husband’s death.

At 4:44 p.m. Monday, Town Manager David Bullock notified town employees of Hogle’s death in an email:

“It is with deepest regret that I inform you of the passing of Longboat Key Police Chief Albert Hogle. Chief Hogle passed away this afternoon from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in North Carolina.

“As information is received and services are arranged the information will be shared publicly.”

As news of Hogle’s death spread throughout the Key Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the town and many condominiums lowered their flags to half-staff.

Early career
Whenever Hogle spoke to citizens’ groups, he reminded residents to lock their doors (despite the Key’s low crime rates), evacuate for hurricanes and to always report suspicious activity. But he often opened his talks by piquing their curiosity.

“I might be the only guy you know,” he’d say, “who has both bought and sold multiple kilos of cocaine.”

The reference was to Hogle’s career in the 1970s and 1980s, when he sported long hair and worked undercover in the Sarasota Police Department’s narcotics division.

His career in law enforcement stretched back even further.

Hogle was born July 21, 1948, in Gulfport, Miss., but he grew up in Sarasota. He graduated from Sarasota High School in 1966 and began his career in policing with a two-year stint in the U.S. Air Force that began in 1967. He told the Longboat Observer in 2002 that he had spent 13 of the “coldest months of my life” in Korea, where he gained experience as a K-9 handler and police officer for the military.

Hogle was hired by the Sarasota Police Department in 1970. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in social-and-behavioral sciences from the University of South Florida and trained at the FBI National Academy.

Retired Longboat Key Deputy Police Chief Martin Sharkey remembers meeting Hogle at least 25 years ago while both were working on a drug bust.

Hogle and Sharkey waited in a duplex while an undercover detective sold crack cocaine to a suspect. The detective was supposed to take his hat off when the deal was done. But the detective took his hat off, and then put it back on, because the suspect wanted to buy more drugs.

It was too late, because police had already busted out of the duplex.

The suspect attempted to escape in his pickup truck, but Hogle dove directly into an open window into the truck’s passenger component. The suspect floored the gas pedal before police vehicles sped into the road to block him. Hogle sustained minor injuries during the incident.

“I was just shaking my head. It was crazy,” said Sharkey, who was new to police work at the time. “But he was really into his job.”

Colleagues said that Hogle could keep his cool in any situation.

“He never changed,” said Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dezzi, who worked for Sarasota County before taking his Longboat Key position. He met Hogle for the first time in the late 1980s. “Whether you saw him on a scene or saw him on the road, he was always a gentleman.”

Hogle rose through the ranks of the police department, becoming lieutenant, then captain during his 28 years with the Sarasota police department.

During that time, he gained a reputation for his skill in mentoring young officers.

“He almost always succeeded in taking them from rookie to the field and making them successful,” said Cumming, who worked for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office before joining Longboat Key’s department four years ago.

Holloway said that Hogle was always there for him and offered his advice to Holloway as he rose through the department ranks from officer to police chief.

“I consider him to be a friend, a mentor and one of the reasons I have been as successful in my career as I have been,” Holloway said.

Just two weeks ago, Holloway said Hogle was talking to him at a police athletic league fundraiser about how excited he was to have his new Chevrolet Camaro delivered.

“Chief Hogle told me he was going to drive over to the station and let me listen to the roar of the engine when he got the car,” Holloway said. “Now I’m sad I’m not going to see that fun-loving guy out in front of the station with a big smile on his face standing next to his new car. I’m going to miss him, and this city is going to miss him terribly.”

Retirement reversal
Hogle retired from the Sarasota police department in 1998, but retirement proved to be short-lived.

Hogle ran unopposed for the Sarasota City Commission District 2 seat in March 1999 that was vacated by former city Commissioner Nora Patterson, who won a seat on the Sarasota County Commission.

During his commissioner term, Hogle was a strong supporter of ending the city’s prolonged legal fight against a fixed-span bridge over Sarasota Bay. He also advocated building a skateboard park on city property and voted to adopt a new downtown master plan.

Former Sarasota city Commissioner and Mayor Mollie Cardamone said she remembers the little things about Hogle that made him so likable.

“He was a true gentleman who would actually get up and pull out my chair at the commission table every single time I walked up to the dais,” Cardamone said. “You don’t see that very often anymore.”

Cardamone said she enjoyed working on the commission with Hogle during a time of rapid growth and development.

“We didn’t have any money problems and were able to witness and approve expansion,” Cardamone said. “It was a good time to be a commissioner and work with a gentleman who was so well-liked and gave so much to his community.”

Hogle said previously that his proudest accomplishments included helping to pave the way for the Ringling Bridge and votes cast to expand both the Senior Friendship Centers and the Florida West Coast Symphony.

Hogle served three years on the Sarasota City Commission and then five months as mayor before departing for Bradenton’s top-cop position in August 2001.

Longboat legacy
Hogle stayed on the job as Bradenton police chief for just more than a year before receiving St. Denis’ offer. He rejected it at first, because he didn’t want to put the city in a bad position by leaving abruptly. But after a few days, he accepted the job.

Before Hogle took over the department, St. Denis had discovered that several officers lacked proper training and had failed to qualify in the use of their handguns at the shooting range. Hogle told the Longboat Observer at the time that he was drawn to the challenge of dealing with a department that was experiencing low morale and disunity. He took the position even though it meant a $9,000 pay reduction from his salary of more than $83,000.

Hogle remained a sounding board for many local law-enforcement officials.

Former North Port Police Chief Terry Lewis, who is currently serving as interim Sarasota city manager, climbed the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office at the same time Hogle was advancing in his career.

Hogle was serving as the Key’s police chief in 2004, when Lewis got his first offer for the city of North Port’s police chief position.

At first, Lewis sought Hogle’s advice on what he should seek in his contract.

“He gave me the best advice I ever got,” Lewis said. “He said, ‘I don’t work with a contract, I work with a handshake.’”

Hogle meant that he wanted to be a police chief only for as long as the community wanted him as chief.

He also encouraged Sharkey to return to a seat at the FBI Academy that he left behind years earlier.

“He went to bat with me and got that seat back,” Sharkey said.

Hogle didn’t stop there. After Sharkey finished his FBI Academy training, he finished his bachelor’s degree at the chief’s encouragement.

He was also active in the Florida Police Chiefs Association and advocated for criminal-justice issues, including mandatory DNA testing for state prisoners and enhancing police training.

Hogle declared his candidacy for Sarasota County sheriff in 2007 but withdrew his name after three weeks citing a family illness. He later served as Longboat Key interim town manager for a month in 2011 following St. Denis’ resignation. In October, he went back to his role as police chief, full-time, after the Town Commission removed him from the role in regards to his handling of employee allegations that a department head had created a hostile work environment. Hogle had placed that employee on paid administrative leave.

Late last year, he applied for the position of Sarasota County administrator and cited some of his proudest accomplishments with the town:

They included preparing and assisting in the management of negotiations for a signed Police Benevolent Association union contract, the reduction of officer and civilian staff without a reduction of service levels and the preparation of budget documents to develop more effective department management in a downsized budget.

Current Town Manager David Bullock said that Hogle created a department that gave Key residents the level of service they wanted.

“He looked for folks who were willing to spend a little time with the citizens,” Bullock said of the officers Hogle hired. “First and foremost, they know how to offer the kinds of police protection needed. But patience, the ability to explain something and do the little things mean a lot for residents.”

It was a level of service that Hogle provided.

Bullock remembers an instance in which the town received multiple noise complaints related to routine maintenance.

“There are lots of ways that it could have been handled,” Bullock said. “In this case, Al chose to drive out and handle it himself. He explained the noise ordinance and went to the people involved and asked them to modify their work schedule.”

“ … it demonstrates the way that he would try to resolve things,” Bullock said. “First, try to make everyone understand, and if that didn’t work, try something else.”

Looking back on the life of his friend of 30-plus years, Lewis pointed out the uniqueness of Hogle’s personality.

“To be a great narc, then transition to becoming an elected official and then to become police chief — it takes a special personality to do that,” he said.

Lewis attributed much of that ability to Hogle’s willingness to listen to others and his openness to new ideas.

“He’s always had it, and it’s something all of us need,” Lewis said. “He had a tolerance for beliefs different from his own. Al was open. He didn’t fit any mold other than rock-solid ethics.”

Hogle is survived by his wife, Leslie, and daughter, Sandy.

At press time, information about services was not available.

Additional reporting by Sarasota Observer City Editor Kurt Schultheis.


In their words

Past and present local officials sound off on Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle.

“Al was a great police chief who will be missed. He was a thoughtful, kind person who never overreacted and was always there for you when you needed him.” — Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight

“We had one of the best working relationships between a police chief and fire chief that you could ever have … He was open and willing to communicate and work toward what was best.” — Julius Halas, director of the Florida Division of the State Fire Marshal and former Longboat Key Fire Rescue chief

“He was kind of the perfect person for Longboat Key. He understood that people wanted a little bit better, and I think that’s his legacy to the people.” — Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown
 


Interim leadership
Longboat Key Town Manager David Bullock wrote the following in a memo to the police department Tuesday afternoon:

“Due to the unexpected loss of Police Chief Al Hogle, it is necessary to appoint a member of our Police force to serve in the capacity of Acting Chief of Police on a temporary basis.

“I have discussed the position with Capt. Pete Cumming, and he has agreed to assume the position of Acting Chief. I have confidence that he will provide the Police Department with the leadership needed during this very difficult time.

“Please support Pete and, as importantly, each other in this time of sorrow and transition.

“Again I ask that everyone keep Chief Hogle’s family in their prayers during this very difficult time.”


Career
Al Hogle
1967-1969 — U.S. Air Force
1970-1998 — Sarasota Police Department, earning retired rank of captain
1998-2001 — Sarasota County commissioner; Sarasota mayor in 2001
2001-2002 — Bradenton police chief
2002-present — Longboat Key police chief

Update: Hogle was buried with a 21-gun salute May 24 at Sarasota National Cemetery. Hundreds of members of the community along with law enforcement officers from across the state attended his funeral.
Pete Cumming, a Longboat Key police captain who was appointed to the role of acting chief immediately following Hogle’s death, was officially promoted to the chief position in September.

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