Carroll police officer Jacob Smith, 26, resigned Monday amid a Daily Times Herald investigation into his relationships with teenage girls.
Smith courted a girl in the months that followed his hire in Carroll in late 2015 while he was married and his wife hadn’t yet moved to town, the now ex-wife told the Times Herald.
It’s unclear whether the girl was 16 or 17 when he first contacted her via the social media website Facebook.
The ex-wife, Julie Harford, said she was pregnant with Smith’s child during part of that time but miscarried.
“He’s a pedophile,” Harford said of Smith.
The girl, now 18 and a recent IKM-Manning High School graduate, moved into Smith’s house in Carroll while she still attended high school, but Smith then courted another teenager in town, which led his live-in girlfriend to deface the second woman’s car in April, both women have confirmed to the Times Herald.
The live-in girlfriend, Randi Rinehart, and her friend, Journee Kajewski, 18, of Carroll, face felony criminal mischief charges for carving a swastika and the word “slut” into the victim’s car. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.
Police Chief Brad Burke told the Times Herald a month ago he was aware of a “rumor” about Smith’s connection to the crime but emphasized that Smith had not, himself, committed a crime.
In Iowa, 16 is the age of consent for minors to have sex with adults. The laws that bar teachers, counselors and church clergy from having sex with minors they oversee do not apply to police officers.
In a recent telephone call to a co-owner of the Times Herald, Burke lashed out about the newspaper’s investigation in an attempt to end it.
Burke declined to say what his own department’s investigation has yielded. It began last week, several days after Burke’s call to the Times Herald. At least one of the newspaper’s sources for this article was told by a police officer to cease communications with the newspaper.
Smith has declined to talk publicly about the situation.
He was fired in 2015 from his first police job in Sumner, his hometown in northeast Iowa, in part because he sent inappropriate private messages on Facebook to a 16-year-old girl, according to a recording of a Sumner City Council meeting obtained by the Times Herald.
Smith allegedly asked the girl in one exchange whether she was drinking alcohol.
Smith was hired by the Sumner Police Department in January 2014. It was his first police job.
He was initially lauded for returning home from college to patrol its streets, but some in town quickly turned on him and complained publicly of his untouchable, I-can-do-what-I-want attitude, his hyper-vigilant policing of drunken driving and a penchant for showing favoritism in traffic stops, council meeting recordings show.
Still, “while working for Sumner I confirmed my thoughts that this job is what I want to do,” Smith later wrote in his Carroll Police Department job application.
His tenure in Sumner came to an end after a series of city council meetings in early 2015 in which he was admonished for three employment violations, harangued by dozens of Sumner residents and, ultimately, fired by the council.
Smith’s first reprimand was for a private Facebook chat he had with a 16-year-old girl in late 2014, when he was 24 years old.
According to copies of the chat the Times Herald obtained, Smith started the conversation about 9:30 p.m. — while he was on duty — with the message: “Illegaly parked..... tisk tisk tisk.”
Smith told his bosses he was merely using a common form of teenage communication to notify the girl that her vehicle was illegally parked, but the conversation veered toward the personal.
“Drinking? haha,” Smith wrote.
The girl later wrote to Smith that she and her boyfriend had broken up. Her parent complained to city leaders about the Facebook conversation.
“The parent was quite upset,” then-Mayor Gary Walke said in a February 2015 council meeting. “It does, in my humble view, create a situation there that is not becoming to police practices.”
Jeff Smith, a then-city councilman who is related to Jacob Smith and pushed to fire him, said: “It was very concerning to me. Facebook isn’t a way to contact people, especially as a policeman. ... I thought that was inappropriate. I really did.”
Smith’s two other written reprimands were for an untimely filing of his monthly report and for questioning a superior officer.
Residents turned out in force at the next council meeting to complain about Smith, who was later fired in April 2014 after a video was posted on Facebook that showed him drinking alcohol with someone who was younger than 21 at a private party.
A JOB SEARCH
Smith was fired not long after he married Harford. They had met at college in Waterloo.
She was a jailor and said she supported him financially for months as he looked for another law-enforcement job — an administrative law judge decided he was ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits, and he was ordered to repay about $2,000 he had received before the judge’s decision.
Smith “knew that two people who were at the party were not old enough to legally drink alcohol,” the judge wrote. “(Smith) took no action when he saw the underage individuals drinking alcohol. In the past while off duty (Smith) had stopped and ticketed an individual he knew was barred from driving. He later testified in court on the matter that he was a police officer 24/7 and was obligated to enforce the law even while off duty. (He) chose not to take any action about an illegal activity going on in front of him during the party at a friend’s house.”
Smith applied to several police departments across the state. He admitted in his application to the Carroll Police Department in July 2015 that he had been fired from his previous job.
It’s unclear how many of the details of his termination were disclosed to Carroll’s Civil Service Commission — which certifies a list of officers eligible for hire — and to the police department before Smith was hired in September 2015.
He was the first officer hired under Burke since he became chief.
A 2ND CHANCE IN CARROLL
Harford initially stayed in eastern Iowa with her cancer-stricken mother when Smith moved to Carroll.
She didn’t learn of the teenage girl he was courting, Rinehart, until the summer of 2016, when Rinehart’s ex-boyfriend told her about the fling.
“From the research I’ve done, he started talking to her in October or November of 2015 (when Rinehart was 16),” Harford said. “He left me for her.”
The ex-boyfriend confronted Smith in an undated series of Facebook messages — which Harford provided to the Times Herald — about Smith’s flirting with Rinehart and asking for photos of her in her underwear. The ex-boyfriend confirmed the exchange when contacted by the Times Herald.
Harford and Smith divorced in September.
Rinehart said she moved to Smith’s house in Carroll early this year — as she finished her senior year in Manning — after a falling-out with her parents.
Sometime in the weeks after Rinehart moved there, Smith had a brief relationship with a 19-year-old Carroll woman. The woman told the Times Herald that Rinehart and a friend harassed and stalked her for a time before they allegedly defaced her car in April.
Smith is not accused in the crime.
“It’s really annoying how people are trying to get him in trouble,” Rinehart said of Smith last week. “Me and Jake have been together for eight months, and I know for a fact that he’s not sleeping behind my back again.”
The felony criminal mischief charges against Rinehart and her friend are pending in district court.
Smith submitted a written letter of resignation Monday, Carroll City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver confirmed, but Pogge-Weaver declined to comment further.
“It’s sickening,” Harford, the ex-wife said. “A pedophile and a predator — that’s not the person you want out there protecting your community.”