North Port K-9 officer suspended for moral character violation

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NORTH PORT, Fla. -- A North Port K-9 officer and Police Explorer adviser was placed on 30 days suspension following an internal investigation that found he repeatedly kissed a 16-year-old girl who also served in the Explorer program, according to Police Chief Kevin Vespia.

Shawn Rice, who has been employed with the department since 2006, was on paid leave since April 10, when the investigation began. He began his unpaid suspension on July 22. Rice is also set to serve one year of probation, and was removed from the Police Explorer program and the K-9 police dog unit, according to a report released Tuesday.

Rice, who was 32 at the time when the incidents were first reported in April, kissed the girl on four separate occasions, the first time on Jan. 2, the same day as Rice’s daughter’s birthday.

Rice twice kissed the girl a few weeks later when the girl and another 17-year-old female Police Explorer went to Rice’s house to retrieve a backpack. The 17-year-old also babysat for Rice, the report shows.

Rice kissed the girl a fourth time that same day outside of another officer’s house, and the girl would later tell investigators she was kissed against her will.

Rice was interviewed in June and said the 16-year-old had only been to his house two or three times, and that it was obvious she had a crush on him. He said that he and the girl would refer to her as his “FEW,” or “future ex-wife."

Rice said the girl initiated the kissing, but he pulled away. He told her friends the kiss made him feel awkward and she was no longer allowed in his house.

Rice classified the situation as a case of “he said, she said,” and declined the opportunity to take a polygraph test.

Prior to the internal investigation conducted by the NPPD, Venice police investigators found there wasn’t enough evidence to indicate that Rice was involved in any criminal wrongdoing.

Rice was cited by Vespia for conduct unbecoming violating the moral character of the department, the report shows.

NOTE: This story was written by Drew Winchester, a staff writer for our coverage partner, the North Port Sun. ABC 7's Todd Dunn is currently working on a follow-up report, and we will have the latest developments tonight during the 5 p.m. newscast.