Thirty-six-year law enforcement veteran First Sgt. Larry Ingle officially retired from law enforcement in June, but came back part time to work a rotation in the Lincoln County Sheriff’s boat, patrolling Lake Norman.
From May to September and along with two other deputies, Ingle hits the water during the weekends to make sure citizens on the lake are safe and sound. During the fall and the winter, the Sheriff’s Office maintains a call schedule for the lake officers, in the event that they are needed. During major boating holidays, like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, the Sheriff’s Office will typically use both of its boats with two deputies on board. Ingle doesn’t shy away from any of these, as the former Verizon executive, night watch commander, Army veteran and lake resident has a true love for the water.
“I worked the lake off and on for a couple of years,” Ingle said. “When I retired from full time, (the Sheriff’s Office) said ‘would you stay part time and work the lake?’ I like boats and the lake, so I jumped at the chance.”
Though spending time on any lake is typically synonymous with leisure and relaxation, Ingle knows full well that law and order still applies to the kayaks, Bass Trackers, pontoons and jet skis. With 520 miles of shoreline on Lake Norman, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office isn’t the only entity to patrol the waters.
Cornelius Police Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, Catawba County Sheriff’s Office and the Wildlife Resources Commission all pitch in to make the lake safe.
Much like Highway Patrol would respond to an accident on a state highway after local police responded, any lake officer that is closest to a boat wreck would respond.
But in incidents of collision, Wildlife Resources would take over the investigation. Though Iredell County possesses the most shoreline, the entire lake is considered shared jurisdiction.
“Most arrests out here would be for boating while impaired,” Ingle said. “If I’m over there in Mecklenburg County and would stop a boater that would be impaired, I still have jurisdiction to arrest that boater.”
Ingle said that aside from BWI arrests and the occasional tragedy as with recent drowning cases, Lincoln County mainly sees lake enforcement as a way of conducting boater safety checks to prevent people from exceeding maximum boat capacity or making sure there are the adequate number of life jackets on board, and issuing citations for boaters that do not obey posted no-wake zone signs. The same may not be so for other adjacent counties.
“Iredell has been (inundated) with people coming in and taking inboard/outboard motors,” Ingle said. “They’ve been having a lot of thefts and they’ve been having a lot of their lake cabins broken into. People coming in by boat. We haven’t had that here in a long time, which is good. It’s really good.”
It is Ingle’s job, as well as the job of the other Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies, to make sure that everyone able to enjoy the lake is safe while doing it. One of the more frequent calls for help that the sheriff’s boat receives typically comes from boaters that have forgotten where they launched their boats or have simply lost their way. Ingle stressed the importance of boater safety and encouraged anyone and everyone that will be on the water to take a boater safety course.
“A couple weeks ago, I stopped a lady in front of the lake cabin,” Ingle said. “I noticed she had an out-of-state registration on the boat and she was lost. She didn’t have a clue what boat landing she put in at.” After a lengthy process of elimination, Ingle and the boater eventually figured out where she needed to be, but it highlighted one of the biggest rules for safety on the lake.
“We run into a lot of people out here, because it is such a big lake,” Ingle said. “It’s marked with channel markers and a lot of people get out here and they have no clue where they put in. They get out here and ride around and get lost. Always pay attention to where you are.”
Easing through the coves of the lake in the shadows of large, looming homes that belong to local celebrities like NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, former Carolina Panther Julius Peppers and Teresa Earnhardt, Ingle doesn’t take his job for granted.
“It’s cool, isn’t it?” Ingle said. “I love what I do. I love the water, and I love helping people and this is both.”