Osceola County

Gov. DeSantis suspends Osceola County commissioner accused of impersonating law enforcement officer

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis has suspended an Osceola County commissioner who was charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer.

The order from the governor said Commissioner Fred Hawkins cannot collect pay.

Channel 9 first reported in November when a now-former community security guard Ailyn DePena was arrested for allegedly shoving Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins. Charges against DePena were later dropped.

Read: Osceola County commissioner posts bond after being charged with impersonating officer

On Nov. 7, Hawkins allegedly attempted to gain access to an election of the Turnberry Reserve Homeowner’s Association, of which he was not a member, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. When a security guard prevented him from entering the room, he flashed sheriff’s office credentials, saying he was with the sheriff’s office and threatened her with arrest.

Hawkins is a special deputy with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, which is an honorary title, according to the FDLE. He does not have the powers to make arrests; nor has he ever been a certified law-enforcement officer in Florida.

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He was not requested by the sheriff’s office to take any action as a special deputy officer.

Community members have raised questions about whether Hawkins was within his rights to display a badge given to him as an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office special deputy during the incident.

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Hawkins is serving his third term on the Osceola County Board of Commissioners. He served as chairman in 2010, 2014 and 2017.

Christina Johnson, a spokesperson for Fred Hawkins for State House campaign released the following statement:

“Make no mistake that Fred Hawkins most certainly remains a candidate for the Florida House. In fact, if he wasn’t a candidate running for political office, this charge would never have seen the light of day. We find it curious that while this incident happened last November, with many having online access to the HOA videotape, that it took eight months to file a charge. This continues to be nothing more than a political witch hunt and these charges will be vigorously defended.”

Katlyn Brieskorn, WFTV.com

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.