Murder defendant Derek Chauvin was only at the Ramsey County Jail for a short time, but this stay left problems for the facility. Eight guards–who are described as minorities–have filed a discrimination complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Right, according to The Star Tribune.
“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,” wrote an acting sergeant, who is black. “I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
Chauvin was booked into the jail back when he was just facing third-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the May 25 death of George Floyd. As seen on video, he knelt for minutes on the man’s neck. This went on for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, prosecutors said. The defendant, a Minneapolis police officer, was fired, and later prosecuted in criminal court.
The case landed on a culture fissure: the ongoing national debate on how law enforcement treats people of color, especially black men like Floyd. Chauvin is white.
It’s in this context that the Ramsey County guards said they were made to go to a separate floor when Chauvin was booked into jail. A supervisor told them that they were a possible “liability” because of their race, according to their complaint.
Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon reportedly made the decision. In a letter provided by the sheriff’s office, he said he got short notice that Chauvin would be arriving at the jain. According this account, he said he was doing it for the good of the minority guards.
“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,” he reportedly said.
But Bonnie Smith, an attorney for the eight guards, said this instead damaged morale, and humiliated her clients. She said that her clients “deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behavior.”
A sheriff’s office spokesman initially denied there was a segregation order when Reuters reached out in a report published June 10.
“They were calling us all liars,” said an acting sergeant. “I can’t go to work and hold my head up knowing that they can just brush this under the rug.”
Chauvin was transferred to the Hennepin County Jail, then to the Oak Park Heights.
[Mugshot via Minnesota Department of Corrections]
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