Jun 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Lawsuit alleges Minnesota jail only allowed white officers to guard Derek Chauvin

George Floyd

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Eight Minnesota correctional officers filed a lawsuit on Friday claiming they were banned from guarding Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, because the jail superintendent would only permit white officers to guard him, NBC News reports.

The state of play: Chauvin, who has been charged with second-degree murder, is currently being held in the Ramsey County Jail after being taken into custody on May 29. The attorney representing the eight officers of color called them "highly trained, experienced professionals" and said they were “humiliated and debased” by the jail's decision to bar them from their duties.

  • The officers "were just as well equipped as their white counterparts to perform their work duties on May 29," attorney Bonnie Smith argued in a statement to NBC.

The other side: The Ramsey County Sheriff’s office claims that only three officers were reassigned and that it only lasted a total of 45 minutes, according to NBC. Ramsey County Jail superintendent Steve Lydon said in a statement:

"Recognizing that the murder of George Floyd was likely to create particularly acute racialized 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 the decision to limit exposure to employees of color to a murder suspect who could potentially aggravate those feelings.”

What to watch: The officers are asking for monetary compensation and racial bias trainings for jail employees. They're also demanding a public apology and for supervising staff to face repercussions.

  • "Their primary goal is to make sure it doesn’t happen again," Smith said.
  • "If [Lydon] is really trying to protect my clients from racial trauma, he shouldn’t be segregating them on the basis of skin color," Smith added. "He isn’t preventing racial trauma — he is creating it."
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