Several minority officers who worked at the jail that held Derek Chauvin following his arrest over the death of George Floyd last year say in a new lawsuit that only white officers were allowed to guard or interact with Chauvin prior to his release.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that eight officers filed a lawsuit in Minnesota district court alleging that a white senior official at the jail ordered the racial segregation of the unit's officers, apparently out of an assumption that Black officers would be blamed if something happened to Chauvin while he was in custody.
The official who made the decision, superintendent Steve Lydon, confirmed that he had issued the policy and later rescinded it, claiming that he was concerned that employees of color may have been "traumatized" by Floyd's death.
“Recognizing that the murder of George Floyd was likely to create a particularly acute radicalized trauma, I felt I had an immediate duty to protect and support employees who may have been traumatized and may have heightened ongoing trauma by having to deal with Chauvin,” Lydon said, according to the Post.
After meeting with minority officers, Lydon said he “realized [his] error and reversed the order.”
The lawsuit claims that Lydon's decision resulted in racial divisions among prison staff which have gone unaddressed in the months since Chauvin was released last fall, and created a hostile work environment for minority employees.
“George Floyd’s murder was a blatant example of the discrimination that people of color experienced in our communities every single day. But unfortunately, the discrimination that Mr. Floyd experienced didn’t stop at 38th and Chicago,” said an attorney for the plaintiffs, according to the Post.
“They’re deeply humiliated and distressed. And the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the [jail] have been broken,” the attorney added.
The Hill has reached out to the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, which oversees the jail, for comment on the lawsuit.