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Short-time Longboat Key police officer made big-time impact

Police Chief Pete Cumming: Creative ideas helped define unique contributions

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  • | 9:18 a.m. September 18, 2016
  • Longboat Key
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A Longboat Key police officer is leaving after just nine months on the job but she left a big imprint, according to Police Chief Pete Cumming.

“She was full of energy and innovative ideas. There’s just something unique about her.”

-- Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming on Wendy McGinnis

“She was full of energy and innovative ideas,” Cumming said. “There’s just something unique about her.”

Former officer Wendy McGinnis, who retired this month from the Longboat Key Police Department, said she was inspired while watching 9/11 coverage to make her last act on the force unique: To honor 9/11 first responders who died in the attacks, she committed more than 400 random acts of kindness – one for each first responder.

“I was watching the 9/11 coverage and I’m thinking: How can I do an act of kindness honoring everyone who died?” McGinnis said.

The self-professed U.S. Air Force brat grew emotional and the tears flowed as she discussed the brave first responders who gave their lives in the attacks.

It seemed impossible, she said, to perform 2,996 (one for each fatality) acts of kindness as an individual. Her husband made it more manageable with a suggestion: Honor the 411 first responders who died.

“It was my last opportunity as a law enforcement officer to give back,” McGinnis said.

She assembled and distributed 411 inspirationally humorous 9/11 appreciation kits filled with candy. Each one bore the name of a first responder who died at the scene.

“I’m hoping someone steals my idea and keeps it going,” McGinnis said.

She and her husband have also created a financial advice service for police and firefighters that is on the verge of going national, which is why she’s leaving LBKPD.

She and her husband have established Serve & Protect Financial, which specializes in financial planning for police officers and firefighters. After he appeared on the October 2015 cover of Financial Planning magazine, their business volume skyrocketed and McGinnis decided it was time to help out full time.

“I can still serve officers,” she said. “We have an opportunity to franchise this business nationwide.”

Her husband, Brian McGinnis, told the magazine he had found a need and was filling it.

When it came to financial planning, investing and the byzantine rules of the Florida Retirement System, his colleagues were typically clueless, according to the magazine article.

“People had no idea what they were doing with their pensions,” McGinnis told the magazine. “No idea at all.”

With crime fighting now behind her, McGinnis said she will have fond memories of what Longboat Key has meant to her family. She said the unique island environment can work for motivated  law enforcement officers.

“It can be a challenge to keep yourself busy,” she said. “You can be as busy as you want to be.”

Her most dangerous incident on Longboat Key came when a bottle was thrown at her by a group of five men, including two loutish brothers “with no respect for law enforcement.”

“They went to jail,” she said.

The most pervasive Longboat Key crime today is theft of boat parts, she said.

“It’s happening everywhere,” she said. “It’s hard to patrol the water from the mainland.”

She’s proud the Longboat Key Police Department is considering adding a new program for the elderly. Participating seniors will theoretically call in at designated hours, and if they don’t, an officer will check on them.

“It gives them a sense that someone cares about me,” she said.

Manpower concerns might stop this McGinnis idea from becoming reality, the chief said.

“It’s in the let’s-look-at-it stage,” he said.

The interview process for her replacement is underway with interviews taking place this week. She is gone but won’t be easily forgotten.

“As far as Longboat Key Police Department, I know I was only here for a short time but I feel God knew what he was doing in bringing me here,” McGinnis said. “He allowed me to leave my footprint here, and that fulfills my law enforcement career.”



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