Father of fired FMPD officer speaks out: ‘I want his name cleared’

Published: April 8, 2022 2:45 PM EDT
Updated: April 8, 2022 4:20 PM EDT

The family of a fired Fort Myers police officer is speaking publicly for the first time in years.

Henry Jackson said he prefers not to talk about his son’s case, but said his family can’t get away from it.

His son, Jason Jackson, was fired from the Fort Myers Police Department in the fall after returning to active duty in April of 2021 after being on paid administrative leave for four years. All of it is tied to the Freeh report, a critical audit of the police department that led to allegations of corruption when it was released in 2017. The audit, a 72-page report, included an appendix that was never released publicly.

The paid leave lasted four years while documents show the FBI investigated the claims of corruption.

Jason Jackson never faced charges and returned to work in April of 2021 only to be placed on administrative leave again after Fort Myers police opened an internal affairs investigation.

The internal affairs investigation found he interfered with an internal affairs investigation, associated with convicted felons and maintained a sexual relationship with a former informant.

That decision still pains and confuses Henry Jackson.

“It tears at me, what’s going on,” Henry Jackson said. “If I’m going to be accused of something, show me what I’ve done wrong.”

Jason Jackson and the police union that represents him immediately appealed his termination.

Union President Matt Sellers calls it unfair.

“It’s deeply concerning when a bureau that’s responsible for investigating officers are not following their own procedures,” Sellers said.

For five months, the Jacksons have waited through the appeals process but the Jackson name keeps getting brought up.

Most recently, records show, Fort Myers police terminated officers Sarah Hodakoski and Evelyn Roberts after investigating their “alleged inappropriate personal relationship with Jason Jackson.”

But eventually, the officers were terminated for “having an inappropriate relationship with a confidential informant,” which had nothing to do with Jason Jackson.

“I call that Jason Jackson syndrome. Everything seems to bring him up. But that’s all I can comment at this time,” Henry Jackson said.

Henry Jackson, the father of Officer Jason Jackson in Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News.

Sellers said: “They had a working relationship like I would have a working relationship with any other officer at the police department.”

There is a reason frustrations are bubbling over now.

In late February, Fort Myers man Robert Ward was found guilty of killing former FBI informant Kristopher Smith.

FMPD’s internal affairs investigation connected Jason Jackson to Ward, claiming he warned Ward the police were watching him and that Ward had paid Jason Jackson for information.

But Jason Jackson never faced charges and his name did not come up during Ward’s trial.

“I testified at the trial. I was never asked any questions under direct or cross-examination about these officers’ involvements. There’s never been a shred of evidence,” Sellers said.

According to Sellers, Jason Jackson is exonerated and every piece of the Freeh report should be made public.

“It’s puzzling,” Sellers said. “It’s disappointing to know that in 2017, suddenly there was this cloud of suspicion and still today, I see it as a complete exoneration of these officers.”

Henry Jackson said after Ward’s conviction he tried to obtain an unredacted copy of the Freeh report appendix A but was denied access.

WINK News also requested the appendix but was denied by Fort Myers police which claims “the documents are related to pending, threatened or ongoing litigation.”

“The taxpayers paid for that report,” Henry Jackson said. “I’m a city taxpayer. I think I should be allowed to see what’s in there.”

“Just release the information,” he added.

Sellers said the police union has also had problems getting documents and looks to Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs for answers.

“These situations come up. Why they do, that’s a better question for the Chief of Police,” Sellers said.

But it’s easier said than done to question Diggs.

Diggs has declined every interview request made by WINK News and is hard to reach even for organizations he’s involved with.

Multiple members of the Fort Myers Police Citizens Review Board said it’s been years since Diggs attended a meeting in person.

“Transparency is key to everything we do,” said Board member Steven Brown-Cestero.

Brown-Cestero said it would be nice to see Diggs make an appearance to that he could answer tough questions and shed light on crucial issues.

“It doesn’t hurt to show up sometimes, especially for a case that we’re spending a lot of time investigating,” Brown-Cestero said.

“He’s hiding behind the Freeh Report,” Henry Jackson said. “He’s a public servant. He should be available to the public.”

It would have been easier for Henry Jackson and his family to accept his son’s termination and move on, but still, they stay patient, focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.

“I want his name cleared, my name cleared,” Henry Jackson said. “That would be a great day. It’s a lot of pressure that would be relieved.”

Jason Jackson’s case is still working through the appeals process. WINK News was told it could be another three to six months before there is any resolution.

Hodakoski and Roberts are also appealing their terminations.

WINK News reached out to FMPD and Chief Diggs for this story. We were told the department would see what they could arrange, but we haven’t heard back since.

WINK News has reached out separately to Jason Jackson, Hodakoski and Roberts. Jason Jackson has declined to comment until the conclusion of his appeals process. We were unable to reach Hodakoski and Roberts.