Community says goodbye to Al Hogle

With an honor guard of 300 police officers, Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle takes his final ride. Photo by Stan Zimmerman

More than 500 people came to Robarts Arena Wednesday afternoon, May 24, to memorialize career police officer, mentor and friend Al Hogle. He was killed in a motorcycle accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway May 14 while riding with friends.

Three police chiefs, two sheriffs and an agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement came to give Hogle a send-off before Hogle’s internment in the Sarasota National Cemetery.

Hogle himself was twice a police chief, once in Bradenton and, at the time of his death, as chief of the Longboat Key Police Department. Those posts came after Hogle’s 28-year career with the Sarasota Police Department, where he won national recognition as an undercover narcotics officer.

The speakers time and again May 24 touched on Hogle’s optimism and problem-solving skills. But more than anything else, they talked about his irrepressible good humor and genuine pleasure in giving service.

Longboat Key Police Chief Peter Cummings recalled Hogle’s trips to the Publix grocery store during the Christmas season to give the Salvation Army bell-ringer a break. “He would ring that bell and greet people from all over town with a big grin on his face,” said Cummings.

“He attained almost legendary status as a narcotics officer,” recalled Sarasota Police Chief Mikel Hollaway. “He was making 500 drug arrests per year. And he was a mentor and teacher to many young officers, including myself.”

If Hogle had a passion, it was speed. His personal auto was a new yellow Camaro, the fastest model. And the motorcycle he was riding at the time of his death was a scarlet Ducatti, arguably the finest sport bike in the world.

“Everybody knew Al loved sports cars and fast motorcycles,” said Hollaway. “I’ll always remember his intense enthusiasm. We’ll miss Al Hogle.”

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight called Hogle “a great leader and a great collaborator.” He added, “We are a better community because of Al Hogle.”

Hogle even did a stint as a Sarasota city commissioner, and he was elected mayor of that board before he quit to take the chief’s job in Bradenton.

As is often true with police funerals, there were officers from across Florida, as well as from state and federal agencies. During his days as a narcotics officer, Hogle often worked with other jurisdictions to unravel complex drug organizations. Hollaway reflected on what he called “the Columbian cartel operation” that resulted in the arrest of seven key players.

Although Hogle was chief of the Bradenton Police Department less than two years, he retained close ties to the agency. The current chief, Michael Radzilowski, recalled joshing with Hogle. “You’re a father figure to all us chiefs,” Radzilowski said, prompting Hogle to quip back, “Does that mean I have to take out the trash?”

The most emotional moments of the service came during remarks from a special agent of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who is Hogle’s sister-in-law. Claudia Law said, “If you take anything from knowing Al, no matter the crisis you fight or the people who drive you nuts, always look for the good. That’s what Al did.”

She closed the memorial service by saying, “Al was in the mountains he loved, riding his motorcycle with four dear friends. God planned it perfectly.”