September 11, 2015

Former Independence, Missouri Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Federal Civil Rights Charge

WASHINGTON—Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri announced that former Independence, Missouri, police officer Timothy Runnels pleaded guilty today for violating the constitutional rights of a minor who was in his custody.

Documents filed in connection with the guilty plea state that Runnels, while employed as an officer of the Independence Police Department, deprived the minor of his civil rights by deliberately dropping the minor face first onto the ground while the minor was restrained and not posing a threat to Runnels or others. According to the court filings, Runnels’ actions resulted in bodily injury to the minor.

Runnels faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for his conviction for violating the minor’s civil rights.

“The department remains committed to ensuring that police officers who violate their sworn oaths by using excessive force are held accountable,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “I am hopeful that today’s plea brings a measure of closure for the victim.”

“The use of excessive force by law enforcement officers is a serious offense that strikes at the heart of Constitutional protections for all citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri. “This former police officer who violated his sworn duty to protect and serve should not reflect upon the vast majority of officers who perform their duties with integrity and professionalism.”

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Kansas City Division and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division and First Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri.