Waite retires from policing paradise
The last three years of Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Ed Waite kind of resembled episodes from “The Andy Griffith Show,” in that it was a in a relaxed, calm and peaceful environment.
Working and living in paradise of Captiva Island still held its challenges, but the rewards far outshined those in the unique environment Waite had the opportunity to work in.
After three years of being the Captiva officer, and 33 years total of working in law enforcement, Deputy Waite, who is 56, is retiring.
“Cops are hard to impress, but I was very much impressed with the Captiva community, my family and I very much enjoyed our time here,” Waite said. “Concluding my 32-plus years has been emotional, but this was an amazing way to exit.”
Waite’s replacement will be Deputy Chris Lusk, 35, who is in the process of moving into the deputy’s residence on Captiva, which is located between the Captiva Community Center and the Chapel by the Sea.
Waite was born and grew up as a native Floridian in Miami. After attending college at the University of Central Florida, he was hired out of the Police Academy in 1983 by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which is basically Orlando.
For 24.5 years, Waite patrolled Orlando’s streets, and he left as a patrol sergeant and as the sergeant of the school resource program, where he supervised 11 deputies who were in the middle schools.
Family drew Waite and his wife, Shannon, along with his two younger children, to the Fort Myers area. His 93-year-old uncle lived on Pine Island and Waite wanted to be close to him because he was his last elder relative.
He was hired on by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy on Fort Myers Beach.
“It was new for me, because in such a larger department like in Orange County, we were reactive, we had to respond to calls after the fact,” Waite said. “But I was afforded the opportunity to be proactive at Fort Myers Beach and was able to meet people, talk to people and learn about them. It was a great people connection.”
Waite worked Fort Myers Beach for five years, before the opportunity on Captiva became available. He took over the Captiva duties in January of 2013.
There are three deputies on Sanibel and Captiva, along with four more on Boca Grande.
Waite’s personable demeanor and the ability to communicate with people out in the field made him a great fit for the Captiva position.
“This is a very unique position out here,” Waite said. “For one, I am on the hostage team and you are on call 24 hours a day. As a Captiva deputy, you are on call 24 hours a day, because in essence, you are the sheriff out here, you represent the sheriff’s office and you have to be committed to this island and the people on this island.
“This cannot be an obligation, you need to want to help and have that desire.”
The Captiva residents openly welcomed Waite and his family with open arms, and that was another aspect which impressed the Deputy.
“The neatest thing coming out to Captiva, was when I arrived, I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received, because the Deputy prior to me, was here for 14 years,” Waite said. “But folks out here were phenomenal, they openly accepted me and my family.”
Waite went out of his way to get to know who the business owners are, the full-time residents and even the good portion of the part-time residents.
His goal was to make a good impression on everyone, even the visitors of the island, to build that trust factor and show he was there to assist them, if needed.
“One of unique things officers, is the average person comes into contact with a police officer very rarely on a daily basis,” Waite said. “But we come into contact with hundreds of people every day and we are leaving our impressions on people everyday.
“On Captiva, you are part of the community and they want to learn about you.”
Living on Captiva was also a treat. With the house which houses the Captiva Deputy a historical one to the island, and where it is situated near the Gulf of Mexico, living was paradise.
“You can lay in bed at night and listen to the waves, the ospreys, the breeze and wind,” Waite said. “That in itself, is great.”
The chance to live in a small town environment was also appealing and one Waite is glad his children were able to enjoy.
Although Waite didn’t have to deal with calls like he did in Orlando, there still is huge responsibility being the Deputy in a small island community like Captiva.
Patrolling the water was important, where rescues of people stranded in sailboats in inclement weather happened, along with disturbances at homes and even the chance to rescue pelicans was on Waite’s list of duties.
But using diplomacy and judgement always goes into a situation, Waite said.
“A lot of factors go into a situation, which includes if you can handle it as an educational reminder, or do we have to handle it as an enforcement situation, because the person has a history of violations,” Waite said. “Every stop, every circumstance is unique and you have to take all those aspects into consideration.”
Waite and his family will be looking to stay in the local area.
But his time which bookended his 33-year law enforcement career was a storybook ending. How can it not, if it was done in paradise?