BREAKING: Fort Myers selects finalists in police chief search

Published: Updated:
Fort Myers Police Department. CREDIT: WINK News

The City of Fort Myers has sifted through more than 170 applicants for its Chief of Police position. That list is now narrowed to five finalists.  

  • Richard Bash: 33 years of law enforcement experience and former Deputy Police Chief at the City of Columbus (OH) Police Department
  • Larry Boone: 33 years of law enforcement experience and former Police Chief at the Norfolk (VA) Police Department
  • Gina Hawkins: 35 years of law enforcement experience and former Police Chief at the City of Fayetteville (NC) Police Department
  • Jason Fields: 23 years of law enforcement experience and current Police Captain/Acting Police Major at the City of Fort Myers Police Department
  • Victor Medico: 23 years of experience and currently Police Captain at the City of Fort Myers Police Department

Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson told WINK News he is interested in a chief who has prior experience serving in a similar role, and that was addressed in the finalist list. Two of the three outside candidates who are not currently with FMPD have police chief experience. 

“This is going to be difficult to narrow it down to a more manageable group. but they did it,” Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson admires.

Mayor Anderson also spent more than 20 years at FMPD. He told WINK News weeks ago that he was interested in candidates with police chief experience.

Two of the three outside finalists fit that bill.

“They’re very impressive. A lot of experience,” Anderson admits. “I’m confident that no matter which one of the five that we select, that we’re going to be in good hands.”

But Mayor Anderson has also expressed a soft spot for internal candidates at FMPD. Two of the five finalists – Jason Fields and Victor Medico – are currently on FMPD command staff.

“I recruited and hired those guys,” Anderson says with a smile. “To see their careers progress to the point where they’re now candidates for chief, it just elates me.”

The search for a new chief is nearing the final stretch but it hasn’t always been smooth. Several sources inside the Fort Myers Police Department tell WINK News they are frustrated with transparency.

They feel the department has been left in the dark and they’re unhappy that no members of the police chief search committee have law enforcement experience.

Fort Myers city council member Johnny Streets is an FMPD vet and he’s heard the same grumblings.

“Where is the community involved with that? Where are perhaps, maybe some officers involved with that? Because I’m getting questions,” Streets admits. “I think something needs to be said to the union, to the officers, to the community.”

There might be a reason for the city keeping FMPD staff at arm’s length through the application process. Through a public records request, WINK News uncovered a letter to Mayor Kevin Anderson and the city council.

The letter – signed by interim Chief Randal Pepitone and deputy Chief Jeff Meyers – recommends the city promote an internal candidate for the FMPD job. That kind of bias could affect the hiring process.

Mayor Anderson is not on the police chief search committee, and couldn’t confirm whether the letter played into how the department has been informed. But he did emphasize just how crucial a detailed, unbiased hiring process will be.

“The job of being police chief is so important, not only to the agency but to the community,” Anderson says.

Interim Chief Randall Pepitone has been holding down the fort since July 2022, after then-Police Chief Derrick Diggs went out on medical leave. Diggs passed away in February after a 46-year career in law enforcement. Pepitone is not a candidate for the job.

City officials confirm that all five finalists will be brought in on June 1 for in-person interviews and to learn more about the Southwest Florida community.  

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