Arbitrator orders former FMPD officer’s termination appeal hearing closed to press, public

Published: April 26, 2022 5:32 PM EDT
Updated: April 26, 2022 8:11 PM EDT

A dramatic dispute five years in the making is nearing an end.

The appeal of former Fort Myers police officer Jason Jackson’s termination began Tuesday and WINK News planned to cover all three days of hearings – until the arbitrator ruled to close them.

When WINK News arrived at Jackson’s arbitration hearing in the morning, a team of Fort Myers Police officers approached the news vehicle and said we are not allowed inside, that the arbitrator ruled to close this week’s hearings.

Plenty of unmarked police cars could be seen in the lot and officers patrolling, but while it’s packed outside, no members of the media or public will be allowed inside.

We obtained the arbitrator’s order this morning. It claims a confidential informant will testify and that closing the hearings will “Protect the identity and likeness of said witness…”

Jackson’s ordeal began back in 2017 after the Freeh Report, a critical audit of the Fort Myers Police Department.

That’s when he and three other officers were placed on paid administrative leave amid concerns of police corruption.

Jackson never faced charges and returned to the department in April of 2021, only to be placed on leave again after FMPD opened an internal affairs investigation.

Then, months later, the department terminated Jackson in November, a decision his police union immediately appealed.

Union president Matt Sellers recently expressed frustration. “We’ve reported many instances of the Police Officers Bill of Rights being violated. It’s deeply concerning to me… it just shows something is happening here that’s not right,” he said.

In this week’s arbitration hearings, the city of Fort Myers will present its argument and present witness testimony as will Jackson and the union.

We asked FMPD Chief Derrick Diggs about Jackson’s case last week. He defended the department’s approach.

Chief Diggs explained, “I think we’ve been very transparent. You gotta understand, some of these cases, we’re not allowed to discuss, okay?”

The union disagrees, saying if Diggs wanted to comment, he could.

“He can!” Sellers said, “Once they’re concluded, which they are, he absolutely can talk about it.”

The arbitration hearings are scheduled for the next few days, but a ruling is not expected for at least two to three months.

Reporting in Fort Myers, investigative reporter Peter Fleischer, wink news.”
In the coming weeks, the two sides will use transcripts to prepare “Briefings”… Which will eventually be reviewed by the arbitrator and used to make a final ruling.
The final ruling is expected to take two to three months to complete.