A police officer was charged on multiple counts Wednesday following an internal Tiverton Police Department investigation into his conduct while serving as the school resource officer...
TIVERTON — A police officer was charged on multiple counts Wednesday following an internal Tiverton Police Department investigation into his conduct while serving as the school resource officer at Tiverton High School late last year.
Officer Jacob Rapoza, a six-year member of the department and Tiverton’s former school resource officer, was charged with simple assault and two counts of disorderly conduct following the investigation requested by Chief Patrick Jones. Rapoza was arraigned in Second Division District Court in Newport and released on personal recognizance bail.
Rapoza has been suspended with pay since Dec. 23, 2022, based on the requirements of the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. He was suspended after he posted comments on Instagram that some parents and students said were threatening and inappropriate.
They were reportedly posted in response to a series of pranks pulled off at the school by seniors just before Christmas break, including tagging doors and hallways with streamers, balloons, wrapped presents and inflatable decorations. The door to Rapoza’s office was one of several targeted.
“Looks like vandalism to me,” he wrote on Instagram. “But should you really be messing with someone who can deck your driving record with citations?”
Parents of the students involved saw the comments and responded angrily, including Bill Gerlach, the father of one of the students.
“I will not address you as ‘officer’ because your conduct here is unbecoming of that title,” he wrote. “Your specific threat of attacking my daughter’s (and the other students involved in this matter) driving record with citations in apparent retaliation will NOT be tolerated. Where do you get off threatening minors in such a way — on social media no less?”
Students took screenshots of the comments prior to their deletion by Rapoza, forwarding them to authorities including the school and police departments. Rapoza was removed from his position two days before Christmas, and the school department notified the community of the removal on Monday, Jan. 9, through a Facebook post.
“We were made aware of a situation and are working with the proper authorities as required,” the statement read. “No students were harmed or in harm’s way in the reported incidents, and Tiverton Police continues to provide SRO support for the School District.”
Police said that any inquiries concerning the matter should be sent to Tiverton Town Administrator Christopher Cotta at 401/625-6701, or Police Chief Patrick Jones at 401/625-6717. The chief declined further comment due to the requirements of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.