Eight non-white corrections officers at a county jail that initially housed Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, say they were barred from guarding Chauvin because of their race, according to the Star Tribune.
The corrections officers, all of whom work at Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul, have alleged that they were ordered to a separate floor while their white colleagues monitored Chauvin, because jail authorities considered them a “liability” around the former officer. In a discrimination claim filed to the state’s Department of Human rights on Friday, the officers also alleged that surveillance footage shows a white lieutenant at the jail sitting on Chauvin’s bunk and letting him use her cellphone.
On May 25, Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as Floyd gasped that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd was declared dead at a hospital shortly thereafter. Chauvin and the three other officers involved in Floyd’s death currently face a slew of charges, with Chauvin facing the most stringent charge of second-degree murder.
When Chauvin was first arrested and booked into Ramsey County Jail on May 29, a Black acting sergeant usually tasked with overseeing the transport of high-profile inmates was allegedly ordered to stop conducting a pat-down on Chauvin and replaced with a white colleague. All non-white officers were also reportedly moved to another floor, away from Chauvin, when he arrived as an inmate.
In the discrimination filing to the state’s human rights office on Friday, one corrections officer who was moved to a different floor said he believed “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.”
When the nonwhite corrections officers raised concerns about their reassignment to higher-ups, jail superintendent Steve Lydon reportedly told his superiors he’d reassigned the officers out of “care and concern” for them.
Lydon has since been demoted. A lawyer for the officers who filed the complaint said they “struggle walking into a building” still under Lydon’s guidance.
The discrimination charges will automatically initiate a state investigation into the matter, the Star Tribune reports.
Chauvin was first held at Ramsey County Jail but has been transferred to two other facilities: first, to a jail in Hennepin County, and most recently to the Oak Park Heights maximum security prison near the Minnesota state capitol.
UPDATED CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. We’ve found that to be an accurate description of the time.
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