Father of suspended police officer wants son’s reputation restored

Published: June 11, 2020 5:50 PM EDT
Updated: June 13, 2020 6:49 AM EDT

Henry Jackson said his son Jason wanted to be a police officer since he was a little boy.

In 2007, Jason Jackson became a fully certified officer with the Fort Myers Police department and excelled.

He passed the detective’s exam and got promoted to a newly formed gang unit in 2016. A few months later, he was named officer of the month for his role in a police standoff with a murder suspect.

But then in 2017, Chief Derrick Diggs placed Jackson on paid administrative leave for “misconduct.” Jackson and three others were suspended: Capt. Melvin Perry, Sgt. Michael Forbes, and Sgt. Rick Notaro.

Henry Jackson

To date: the department has never explained why.

The other three officers have all retired, but Jackson remains on paid leave, collecting full pay and benefits. He has been paid around $220,000 since 2017.

“I’m going to rejoice the day that they say they don’t have anything and they say I’m sorry I messed up four years of your life,” said Henry Jackson, who wants to restore his son’s reputation.

Sources told WINK News investigative reporter Lauren Sweeney that Jackson, Perry, Forbes, and Notaro are part of a federal criminal investigation into drugs, murder, and public corruption.

The head of the police union said the investigation is tied to the case against Robert Ward, an alleged drug kingpin whose accused of ordering the murder of a police informant in 2012.

READ MORE: Is a 3-year police misconduct investigation connected to the murder of a federal drug informant?

Kristopher Smith was murdered in Fort Myers in early 2013.

The officers received target letters from the United States Attorney’s Office in 2018 the day before Ward was indicted.

According to Henry Jackson, his son reported to the courthouse in Tampa, as instructed in the letter.

“I don’t know exactly what happened on that particular date, but he came back home,” said Henry Jackson.

He believes rumors were started by a detective at the department, which led to the investigation.

In 2016, an internal affairs investigation was launched into Det. Emily Destefanis for things she’d said about Jackson, Perry, and Forbes in front of coworkers.

According to the investigation, Destefanis was discussing possible corruption with the officers, but her coworkers felt she did not have any evidence and was out of line for making the insinuation.

According to audio interviews reviewed by WINK News, at one point, Destefanis discussed Jackson riding around in a car with someone that was a known drug dealer. The comment was made in front of two coworkers who are both black and who defended Jackson.

“I reiterated the fact that Jason does football for the football league locally for Dunbar… and all of the kids even with some of those guys that are bad guys they’re out there doing the things that they’re doing, (but) it could be that his kid is on the team that Jackson is affiliated with,” said Chevalia Jones during an interview with the professional standards bureau in 2017.

Destefanis admitted to talking about information on a murder case leaking out into the community due to Perry’s familial connection with the victim. She also spoke about a connection between the ex-wife of Forbes and the murder victim.

Destefanis was eventually reprimanded for her comments and given counseling. But Henry Jackson feels these rumors made their way to the ear of Chief Derrick Diggs, who decided to place his son and the others on paid leave.

“You’re going on four years, and you haven’t even charged anyone with a crime,” he said.

Accused drug kingpin Robert Ward will not go to trial until January 2021. The United States Attorney’s Office will not confirm the connection between the officers and his case.

The Fort Myers Police Department has continually declined to comment on anything to do with the suspended officers.