Eight minority corrections officers in Minnesota filed discrimination charges with the state Department of Human Rights saying that they were barred from guarding or making contact Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd.
Chauvin, 44, was booked at the Ramsey County Jail in St. Paul, Minnesota, the same day he was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day. Those charges would later be upgraded to second-degree murder.
Cell phone footage showed Chauvin kneeling on on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as the African-American father-of-five pleaded ‘I can’t breathe!’
The Star Tribune reports that as Chauvin arrived, all officers of color were ordered to a separate floor and told by a supervisor that, because of their race, they would be a possible ‘liability’ around Chauvin.
Dereak Chauvin (pictured in mugshot left and right) was a former Minneapolis Police Department Officer who now faces murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd
Discrimination charges filed on Friday say minority corrections officers at the Ramesy County Jail (pictured) were barred from guarding or making contact with Chauvin when he arrived on May 29
‘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 active sergeant wrote.
‘I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.’
Attorney Bonnie Smith, who is representing the eight officers, said the move has left a lasting and damaging impact on worker morale.
‘I think they deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behavior,’ said Smith.
‘Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again.’
Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon reportedly told his superiors that the decision was made in haste after he was informed Chauvin would arrive in 10 minutes.
The move was made ‘to protect and support’ minority employees by keeping them away from Chauvin.
Cell phone footage showed Chauvin (pictured) kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while the African-American father pleaded ‘I can’t breathe!’
George Floyd (pictured) died at a local Minneapolis hospital after his disturbing interaction with Chauvin and three other officers on Memorial Day
‘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 amid an internal investigation and provided to The Star Tribune.
The formal charges filed Friday are expected to automatically launch a state investigation into the matter – making it the second Department of Human Rights racism investigation into police in recent weeks.
The first was triggered by the death of George Floyd and examined the Minneapolis Police Department, which has been since been abolished in a vote by the city council.
The probe will analyze Minneapolis Police Department policies and procedures over the last 10 years to determine if the department, currently under the direction of Chief Medaria Arradondo, engaged in discrimination.
The incident in the discrimination charges began on May 29, four days after George Floyd was killed and public outrage spawned protests across the country.
A Black sergeant who usually oversees the transport of high-profile inmates began a routine pat-down of Chuavin, but was soon ordered to stop. He was replaced by a white officer, according to charges.
A colleague reportedly told him that Lydon had instructed all minority employees from the fifth floor, where Chuavin was housed, and banned any interaction with Chauvin.
In each instance, minority officers were reportedly swapped out for white officers to perform standard duties.
The group of minority officers later gathered on the third floor to discuss the unusual change and console each other over what they deemed a ‘segregation order.’
Protests have erupted across the United States and the world after video of George Floyd’s death went viral on social media
The Minneapolis Police Department (pictured) is to be disbanded and replaced with a community-led public safety system
Some officers cried, while others wondered if they should quit their jobs, according to charges obtained by The Star Tribune.
Those who had complaints were told to talk to Lydon.
Written statements show 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.
Lydon defended his decision, charges said, but reversed his decision within 45 minutes.
A complaint to top officials by a union steward sparked an internal investigation.
Lydon reportedly said during his interview that he acknowledged that George Floyd’s death could ‘likely create acute racialized trauma’ and felt responsible to protect minority staffers from Chauvin.
He maintained that the decision was not made over questions of professionalism or concern for Chauvin’s safety.
‘I realized that I had erred in judgment and issued an apology to the affected employees,’ said Lydon.
By then, at least on officer’s work schedule had changed for the weekend.
Police fire tear gas and less-lethal rounds at protesters during a demonstration at the intersection of East Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota (pictured)
The next day, several officers reported seeing surveillance footage that showed a white lieutenant, who was given special access to Chauvin’s jail cell, sitting on his bunk bed and allowing him to use her cell phone.
Such actions are considered a significant policy violation and caused officials to move Chauvin to the Hennepin County jail before finally being placed in the Oak Park Heights maximum security prison.
After the incident, dozens of jail staffers reportedly met with Sheriff Bob Fletcher and had an acting sergeant read a two-page letter on behalf of minority employees.
The letter addressed the orders from Lydon, the surprise he felt at being labeled a ‘liability’ around Chuavin and the instruction to notify other officers of color of floor reassignments.
The letter read: ‘I immediately left feeling sick to my stomach. The hurt and anger these officers displayed was evident not only in their body language, but in their voice.’
The sergeant alleged that the order had caused tension among staff and cast doubt on the professionalism of officers.
He did not call for Lydon’s resignation, but acknowledged that his judgement ’caused us officers to lose faith in his ability to run this facility.’
Fletcher promised to reassign Lydon from the jail and send an e-mail about how the agency could move past the incident, The Star Tribune reports. Staffers said he never did.
As of Saturday, a sheriff’s office spokesperson said Lydon had been removed from his position as a jail superintendent and will report to Undersheriff Bill Finney, who is leading the Detention Division in the interim.
Pictured (left to right): Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane
The recent discrimination charges will spark a second Department of Human Rights racism investigation into police in recent weeks after the first was triggered by the death of George Floyd (pictured)
Fletcher is reportedly ‘reviewing the matter to determine if any additional action is necessary,’ the spokesperson said.
However, the department’s recent admission to reassigning officers of colors directly goes against its initial narrative pushed to the media.
When Reuters questioned the segregation orders, the spokesperson initially said there was ‘no truth to the report’ and that Chuavin ‘was treated according to procedure.’
The blatant denial of any wrongdoing was salt on the wound for officers of color.
‘They were calling us all liars,’ one acting sergeant told The Star Tribune. He asked to be anonymous over fears of retaliation.
‘I can’t go to work and hold my head up knowing that they can just brush this under the rug.’
The sergeant said he was so disheartened by the segregation order that he left work in tears. He also turned down a promotion and the additional pay with it.
The spokesperson said he responded that way because ‘When I asked, that’s what I was told.’
All eight employees deemed the order the ‘most overtly discriminatory act’ they’ve experience while working for the Ramsey County Jail.
Pictured: Protesters gather at the scene where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota
One officer noted 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 color and I were, and continue to be, deeply humiliated, distressed, and negatively impacted by the segregation order,’ the charges said.
The Ramsey County Jail was characterized as a ‘hostile work environment’ over the reported failure to address the incident.
‘The damage had been done.’ said attorney Bonnie Smith. ‘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.’
In addition to Chauvin’s arrest, officers Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, have all be charged.
They were hit with aiding and abetting to second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The three officers were taken into custody in early June and held on a $1million bail.
Lane and Kueng have since been released from jail on bond. Thao remains in police custody.
As demonstrations continue to grip the nation, one man was killed and 11 others injured in Minneapolis after suspected gunmen fired several rounds on Saturday night.
Photographs posted to social media showed windows at the Landmark’s Uptown Theatre and another storefront shot out. One man is dead and 11 people suffered non-life-threatening wounds in a shooting in Minneapolis, police said early Sunday
The area of the gunfire is reportedly three miles from a neighborhood that was overcome by rioting amid protests.
Police had not yet released details on what led to the shooting which is reported to have involved people firing ‘around 80 rounds’ at each other. No one was in custody in connection with the shooting as of 4 a.m.
A preliminary investigation indicated that ‘individuals on foot’ started shooting around 12:30 a.m. and later fled the scene. The victims have not been identified.
Photographs posted to social media show windows at the Landmark’s Uptown Theatre and another storefront shot out. Screams were audible on a live video posted to Facebook that showed the aftermath at the scene.