Eight correctional officers at a Minnesota county jail have filed a racial discrimination lawsuit alleging they were prohibited from guarding murder suspect and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The officers, who identify as Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and mixed race claim that a superintendent at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (ADC) in St. Paul, Minnesota put officers of color on another when Chauvin was arrested last May for the murder of George Floyd.
In the suit, filed Tuesday (February 9) in a state district court, the officers say they were “segregated and prevented from doing their jobs…solely because of the color of their skin.”
The group of officers also alleged that Chauvin received special treatment from a white lieutenant at the jail.
“When Officer Chauvin arrived, they were prepared to do the jobs they had done every single day up to that point, until, that is, Superintendent [Steve] Lydon’s order prevented them from doing so,” the groups’ attorney, Lucas Kaster, said during a news briefing on Tuesday (February 9).
“The impact on our clients has been immense. They’re deeply humiliated and distressed, and the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been broken,” Kaster added.
Chauvin was arrested on May 29, 2020, four days after video showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite Floyd repeating he couldn’t breathe. He currently faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, along with three other former officers who were at the scene at the time.
The correctional officers say that they were “extremely upset and offended,” after they were told they’d be reassigned when Chauvin arrived at the facility. They claim that Lydon gave an order to clear all minority officers from the fifth floor where Chauvin was being held, and they weren’t allowed to guard or even interact with Chauvin.
According to a report by NBC News, Devin Sullivan, one of the officers named in the suit, says he was in the middle of patting Chauvin down for processing and booking when Lydon ordered Sullivan to stop and put a white officer in his place.
The lawsuit also claims a white lieutenant entered Chauvin’s cell, sat on his bed, patted his back “while appearing to comfort him,” and let Chauvin use a cellphone.
The officers had originally filed discrimination charges with Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights back in June, but Kaster told the Star Tribune that the case didn’t go anywhere, so attorneys requested it to be closed so other legal avenues could be pursued.
An internal investigation was launched by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office into Lydon’s actions, the outcome of which was unclear. The sheriff’s office released a statement at the time of the investigation to the Star Tribune in which Lydon said he was trying to “protect and support” minority correctional officers by keeping them away from Chauvin.
In Tuesday’s news conference, Kaster said the officers never heard Lydon’s explanation and that it was only given after they were barred.
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