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Facing terminal cancer, Col. Rodney Jackson wants to be remembered as ‘an officer with a heart’

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Friends and fellow officers honor Col. Rodney Jackson’s after it was announced that he has terminal cancer by placing this sign in his yard. The banner is now in the possession of Yellow Ribbon Support Center that was organized by the Keith Maupin of Batavia, when his son Matt did not return from Iraq. It will be returned to his yard and later sent to his son in Delaware. “I am thankful for this recognition,’’ he said. Photo by Asia Harris

By Asia Harris

The Cincinnati Herald

Colonel Rodney Jackson spent several decades of his life serving as a police officer and firefighter, as well as with the Civil Rights Department at the United States Department of Justice. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, he has worked for four police departments and three fire departments in his lifetime. He worked as a day engineer while he worked at the fire department. Although he dedicated his life to protecting and improving his community, he faced a great amount of adversity during his career. He continued to be an officer for years because he lived with the mindset that, “Doing your job may be hard, but you cannot let excuses get in your way.”

Colonel Jackson, who has been battling cancer for the past 10 years, saw both wonderful and tragic situations occur while he was on the job. He admits that he felt more targeted by racism in his uniform than out of it.

As a consultant when various police departments had officers who violated policies and broke the law, it was his job to work hands on with the wrongful department to provide training. The colonel worked with each department advising on how situations should be handled. He provided sensitivity training to provide the insight that as an officer one is going to interact with diverse types of personalities.

He has been an officer with the police and fire departments for the Village of Lincoln Heights, City of Blue Ash fire Department, as a state officer at the Lewis Center, as a park ranger in Anderson Township, and as a police office in Morrow, Ohio.

He said he is disturbed by the many current issues involving police brutality. Jackson’s stance is that the Attorney General should be more blatantly intolerant of police brutality, by stepping up and saying it will not continue without severe punishment, specifically with jail time.

Col. Rodney Jackson was on a recent Honor Flight to tour veteran’s monuments in Washington, D.C. Photo provided

During a time when relationships between officers and civilians are very rigid, Colonel Jackson offers knowledge to young officers, saying, “To be a police officer you must be smart when you’re doing your job and have real courage.” He goes on to say that officers cannot be reckless in their actions, that a child should not be killed because a law enforcement officer feared for his life after a youth looks at them in a menacing manner. Officers have the power of life and death at their waist and should endure extensive training to know how to make grave decisions each day, he said.

Colonel Jackson said also believes that officers should be skilled in social services by learning how to deal with their communities and how to cope with frustration that officers face on the job. He has worked in several fields of social service, including suicide prevention and alcoholism rehabilitation programs. Having experience with troubled individuals before becoming an officer provided him with the materials to be able to do his job with the mindset that he is not just a policeman, but also a human serving other humans, who deserve to be treated fairly.

Colonel Jackson said he approached his career professionally and kept himself mentally strong so that he could do his job. He has received a Fifth Third Bank Profiles in Courage Award as a longtime, respected officer. The community has called him a hometown hero.

As a child Colonel Jackson remembers saying that when he grew up wanted to be “an officer with heart.” In the trials he now faces in life, he says he hopes his community can remember him the same way.

He has a son, who lives in Delaware, and a daughter, who lives in Montana.

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