North Port K-9 officer suspended for moral character violation

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NORTH PORT, Fla. -- North Port police Officer Shawn Rice is serving a 30-day unpaid suspension for conduct unbecoming a North Port police officer and a more character violation in the wake of accusations that he kissed a 16-year-old girl on multiple occasions. Rice, a five-year veteran with the North Port P.D., served in the K-9 unit and was an adviser to the Explorer program. In April, the father of the 16-year-old girl came to the police department to report Rice kissed his daughter against her will.

“For impartiality I asked the Venice Police Department to conduct the criminal portion of the investigation to which they did," said Police Chief Kevin Vespia. "Upon conclusion of there investigation they determined there was not sufficient probable cause of any wrong doing.”

Vespia said there were no witnesses to the kiss which both sides acknowledge took place. According to the Internal affairs report, the juvenile said she was kissed by Rice four times, all against her will.

“The officer's claim is that a kiss occurred where she was the aggressor, meaning the sixteen year old," Chief Vespia says. "He pushed her away and felt that it was inappropriate.”

Rice did not tell the girl's parents or report the incident to his superiors, and he allowed the girl into his house and bedroom on multiple occasions.

“He should have never been in that position. There were comments made that the girl had a crush on him. She would visit the house with her friend who was the babysitter and she would leave notes on the refrigerator referring to herself as future ex-wife or FEW,” Chief Vespia says.

Rice maintains that the girl is lying; though he declined to take a polygraph test.

“The fact of the matter is there were signs there that were pretty evident based on his testimony and admissions were he should have put a stop to it before it even got to that level,” says Chief Vespia.

Rice is the fourth North Port officer to be disciplined for his actions this year.

“It makes everybody in the community a little nervous because these people are supposed to protect us,” said North Port resident Cythia Morse.

“I just think it is ridiculous," said resident Debbie Bischoff. "If you are in that position, you know better.” 

Chief Vespia agrees and hopes the public will not judge the entire department based on the actions of a few.

“There's a handful of people that have made poor decisions and we are dealing with them,” he says.

After his 30 day suspension, Rice will be on probation for one year. He will not be a part of the K-9 unit or the police Explorer program and will be assigned back to street patrol.

Rice was given a 30 day suspension without pay for conduct unbecoming a North Port Officer and Moral Character Violation. After he serves the suspension (which started July 22), Rice will be on probation for a year. He will no longer be a part of the K-9 unit or the police Explorer program and will be assigned back to street patrol.