A lawsuit filed by eight people of color who work as corrections officers alleges that they were prohibited from guarding or interacting in any way with Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd last spring.
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, all officers of color were moved to a separate floor of the correctional facility where Chauvin was held on the day he arrived.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of the eight officers, who identify as Black, Hispanic and Pacific Islander, alleges racial discrimination and a hostile work environment.
NEW: Corrections officers of color who were barred from guarding Derek Chauvin have filed a discrimination lawsuit… https://t.co/I6ug5jvxL6— Star Tribune (@Star Tribune)1612891312.0
The allegations in the 30-page lawsuit—filed in Ramsey County District Court Tuesday morning—paint an eyebrow-raising picture of the operations at the Ramsey County jail during Chauvin's stay last summer.
In addition to the transfer of all non-White officers to another floor of the facility, a Black sergeant was forbidden by the jail's White superintendent from transferring Chauvin to his cell solely because of his race. Another Black officer was removed and replaced by a White officer in the middle of patting Chauvin down upon his arrival at the jail.
Two other officers said they saw surveillance footage of a White female officer being granted "special access" to Chauvin's cell, during which she sat on Chauvin's bed and loaned him her cell phone, in violation of policy. That officer was previously identified in communications between lawyers and the local Sheriff's office as Lieutenant Lugene Werner, who is related to Chauvin's sister by marriage.
Werner denies the allegations against her and declined to speak about her relationship to Chauvin.
In a statement last summer, jail Superintendent Steve Lydon claimed the segregation was to protect the officers from Chauvin, given the extreme emotions related to George Floyd's murder.
As he explained in the statement:
"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..."
"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."
But the officers say no reason was ever communicated to them at any time.
BREAKING: Eight minority corrections officers who were barred from guarding or having contact with former Mpls poli… https://t.co/oVXCJxmpXb— Liz Sawyer (@Liz Sawyer)1612890016.0
In the lawsuit, Minneapolis attorney Lucas Kaster explained Lydon's decision to segregate the officers injured their credibility and undermined the facility's safety.
"Credibility is critical to maintaining safety in a jail environment... [The] segregation order tarnished [the officers'] credibility and reputation and prohibited them from completing their job duties professionally."
The officers' lawyers requested the state close the administrative case so they could pursue legal action in state… https://t.co/QvSZOB36Nn— Liz Sawyer (@Liz Sawyer)1612890678.0
Public records show that Werner is related to Chauvin’s sister via marriage. When reached by phone, Werner insisted… https://t.co/6Z87EYRaYp— Liz Sawyer (@Liz Sawyer)1612895427.0
On Twitter, many were appalled by the revelations alleged in the lawsuit.
@ByLizSawyer I read this and am so mad I can hardly breathe— St. Croix Drifter (@St. Croix Drifter)1612930111.0
Does he get organic snacks too? Officers of color barred from guarding or interacting with Derek Chauvin in jail: l… https://t.co/UlFOXk8Yi8— View From The Watchtower (@View From The Watchtower)1612910781.0
@NBCBLK If racists were barred from guarding black inmates, my guess is that there would be A LOT less correctional… https://t.co/NkkV8rYVM1— Michelle M. (@Michelle M.)1612927128.0
(I've always said that the thing that scares white people the most is that people of color will treat us the way ma… https://t.co/A1JXvnPBD9— Pax Rhodes (@Pax Rhodes)1612901240.0
@NBCBLK I can't imagine any circumstance where a white guard would be removed from guarding a Black inmate. That wo… https://t.co/oZtQWJJIJJ— Gregory H (@Gregory H)1612976373.0
https://t.co/6SL5W3fRxZ— Hail Heedra (@Hail Heedra)1612917744.0
If Chauvin was black he would already be dead in jail. This white man has all the protection of of white officer's… https://t.co/XBeXj0cOdd— Evie (@Evie)1612910196.0
..... of course they were. of course jfc https://t.co/mT8Avv3p23— Erica (she/her) (@Erica (she/her))1612970198.0
Making employment decisions based on race... Corrections officers of color barred from guarding Derek Chauvin file… https://t.co/eMz8ruwuq8— Kate Bischoff 👩🏻💻🙋🏻♀️🥾🇺🇸 (@Kate Bischoff 👩🏻💻🙋🏻♀️🥾🇺🇸)1612898146.0
@washingtonpost The Suspected White Supremacists have to protect their own.— Brian Smith (@Brian Smith)1612928057.0
All eight officers—some of whom have worked for Ramsey County for 10 years—expressed shock at the incident, which they called the "most overtly discriminatory act" they've experienced during their tenure.