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Eight minority corrections officers in Minnesota have lodged discrimination charges with Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights after they were reprotedly prevented from guarding or coming into contact with Derek Chauvin in late May.
After being charged with third-degree murder on May 29 for killing George Floyd, Chauvin was booked in the Ramsey County jail. When Chauvin arrived, officers of color were directed to a different floor, where a supervisor told them that because of their race, they could possibly be a “liability” around Chauvin, the Star Tribune reports.
“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,” a Black acting sergeant wrote in the racial discrimination charges. “I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
Bonnie Smith, the attorney representing the eight officers, said that the moment negatively impacted their attitudes. “I think they deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behavior,” she told the publication. “Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again.”
Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon tried to justify his decision to his superior, explaining that he was only warned of Chauvin’s arrival 10 minutes prior, which is when he chose “to protect and support” employees of color from Chauvin.
“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 reportedly said in a statement given during an internal investigation. He was subsequently demoted.
Charges filed on Friday are anticipated to lead to a state inquiry and will be the second recent Department of Human Rights racism probe into a law enforcement agency. Earlier this month, the agency launched an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department following Floyd’s death. The inquiry will look into MPD policies and procedures from the last 10 years, so it can ascertain if the department is involved in discriminatory practices.