Eight minority corrections officers in Minnesota have filed a lawsuit for discrimination after being told that they couldn’t have contact with former officer Derek Chauvin, the man who has been charged with killing George Floyd.
As the Star Tribune reports, the corrections officers say that they were told that their race made letting them guard or interact with Chauvin a liability. As a result, they were assigned to a different floor than where the former Minneapolis policeman is being held.
“I understood that the decision to segregate us had been made because we could not be trusted to carry out our work responsibilities professionally around the high-profile inmate — solely because of the color of our skin,” one of the complainants wrote.
“I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon, who has since been demoted, explained his decision and said that he was attempting to protect the corrections officers.
“Out of care and concern, and without the comfort of time, I made a decision to limit exposure to employees of color to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings,” Lydon said.
Chauvin was arrested on May 29 after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died while in police custody. A video of the event shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes while the man warned the officer he couldn’t breathe. He later called out for his deceased mother before becoming unresponsive. He was later declared deceased at a nearby hospital.
The three other officers present have also been charged with lesser crimes in Floyd’s death.
Chauvin was booked at the Ramsay County jail on the day he was arrested, and the suit claims that discriminatory behavior began right away. Reportedly, one Black officer attempted to pat down Chauvin but was replaced with a white officer. Chauvin was then placed on the fifth floor and minority officers were told to stay away and not have any contact with the former officer.
One individual said that after hearing they were considered a “liability,” they were hurt and angry.
“I immediately left feeling sick to my stomach,” the staffer said.
Lydon says he later recognized that his decision was wrong and he offered an apology to the impacted officers.
Footage from the jail also shows a white officer allowing Chauvin to use her cellphone, which is a violation of policy.
Floyd’s death sparked Black Lives Matter protests around the world, calling for an end to racism and police violence.