Eight non-white corrections officers have said they were barred from guarding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin – the man charged with the murder of George Floyd – because of their race, according to a report.
The officers at Ramsey County jail have filed discrimination charges with the state’s Department of Human Rights alleging they were barred from guarding or having any other contact with Chauvin based solely on the colour of their skin, according to The Star Tribune.
Chauvin was booked in the county jail on 29 May for the third-degree murder and manslaughter of Floyd, a black man who died while in custody after Chauvin pinned him to the ground by his neck with his knee. Since then Chauvin’s charges have been elevated to include second-degree murder.
The officers alleged that when Chauvin arrived at the jail all officers of colour were ordered to a separate floor and a supervisor warned that due to their race they may be a “liability” around Mr Chauvin, The Tribune reported.
“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,” wrote one acting sergeant in racial discrimination charges, who is black.
“I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
Jail superintendent Steve Lydon, who has since been demoted, said that he made the decision “to protect and support” minority employees from Mr Chauvin.
“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,” Mr Lydon reportedly said in a statement provided by the Sheriff’s Office to The Tribune.
The eight officers have characterised the order as the “most overtly discriminatory act” they’ve experienced working for Ramsey County.
“My fellow officers of colour and I were, and continue to be, deeply humiliated, distressed, and negatively impacted by the segregation order”, the charges say, according to The Tribune.
Formal charges filed on Friday to the state’s Department of Human Rights will automatically trigger a state investigation.
“I think [the employees] deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behaviour,” Bonnie Smith, a Minneapolis attorney representing the eight employees said.
“Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again.”