DETROIT – A former Warren police officer is facing federal charges for violating a jail prisoner's civil rights by allegedly assaulting the prisoner without justification. United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison announced the charges on Monday.
Matthew J. Rodriguez, 48, a former Warren Police Officer, was charged with deprivation of rights under color of law in a criminal complaint.
According to the complaint, on June 13, 2023, while Rodriguez was working as a jail officer at the Warren Police Department, the victim was brought to the department after being arrested. During the processing, Rodriguez is accused of repeatedly assaulting the prisoner without justification. Surveillance footage from the police department shows that while the victim had his hands down at his sides, Rodriguez struck him in the head with enough force to make him stumble backwards. He then allegedly shoved the victim against a wall and threw him to the floor, where he proceeded to repeatedly punch the victim in the head with a closed fist and slam his head into the floor.
The severity of the alleged abuse prompted federal authorities to step in, and Rodriguez now faces a felony charge for deprivation of civil rights.
U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison expressed her concern over the shocking abuse of authority demonstrated by the officer, emphasizing that such conduct must not go unpunished. Macomb County Prosecutor Peter J. Lucido, who initially brought misdemeanor charges against Rodriguez, cooperated with federal authorities to ensure justice is served. The state charges will be dismissed to allow the federal case to proceed.
Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan, Devin J. Kowalski, reiterated the FBI's commitment to protecting the civil rights of all individuals, including those in police custody. He acknowledged that the alleged conduct of the defendant does not reflect the professionalism and honor expected from law enforcement officers.
If convicted on the civil rights charge, the defendant could face up to ten years in prison. However, a criminal complaint is not evidence of guilt, and Rodriguez is entitled to a fair trial where the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was investigated by the FBI, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Moran is prosecuting the case.
This incident serves as a reminder that the protection of civil rights is fundamental to the principles of justice in a democratic society. Authorities are working together to ensure righteousness in the legal system and uphold the values of accountability and integrity in law enforcement.