Minnesota prison officers file discrimination lawsuit after 'being barred from guarding Derek Chauvin'

22 June 2020, 18:46

Derek Chauvin is has been charged with second degree murder
Derek Chauvin is has been charged with second degree murder. Picture: HENNEPIN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

By Maddie Goodfellow

Eight corrections officers in Minnesota have filed racial discrimination charges with the state Department of Human Rights saying that they were barred from guarding Derek Chauvin because of their race.

Chauvin, 44, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd after footage emerged of him kneeling on on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded "I can't breathe".

Three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

All four officers have since been fired from the Minneapolis police department.

George Floyd's death has sparked worldwide protests.

Local media has reported that all BAME officers were told by a supervisor that, because of their race, they were judged to be "liability" around Chauvin.

One active Sergeant said: "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 colour of our skin.

"I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate."

Another officer said that when a man is booked for domestic assault charges against a women, female officers are not ordered to avoid them despite how they may feel.

"My fellow officers of colour and I were, and continue to be, deeply humiliated, distressed, and negatively impacted by the segregation order," charges stated.

The attorney representing the eight correctional officers, Bonnie Smith, said: "I think they deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behaviour.

"Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again."

Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon reportedly said the move was made 'to protect and support' minority employees by keeping them away from Chauvin. 

In a statement provided to local media, Lydon reportedly said: "Out of care and concern, and without the comfort of time, I made a decision to limit exposure to employees of colour to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings."

An internal investigation has been launched over the issue.

A black sergeant who oversees the transport of high-profile inmates began a routine pat-down of Chauvin, but reportedly ordered to stop ad was replaced white officer. 

In each instance, minority officers were reportedly swapped out for white officers to perform standard duties.

Local media reports that all eight officers scheduling time to speak with Lydon, where he reportedly admitted to banning the officers from the fifth floor but was adamant that it wasn't racism.

The decision was reversed 45 minute later.  

"I realised that I had erred in judgment and issued an apology to the affected employees," Lydon later said.

Attorney Bonnie Smith said: "These jobs are super sensitive, highly dangerous at times and involve an immense amount of trust."

"They struggle walking into a building where the superintendent is still affiliated."