The former Minneapolis cop accused of killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes was apparently given special treatment in an unusual way after he was booked into a county jail last month. Derek Chauvin was separated from all officers of color at the Ramsey County jail after a supervisor told one of them they were a potential “liability” because of their race, according to the Star Tribune. Eight corrections officers filed discrimination charges Friday with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the newspaper 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 color of our skin,” a Black sergeant wrote. “I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
Jail Superintendent Steve Lydon was demoted in the situation despite his attempt to convince his bosses he was acting to “protect and support” minority staffers likely at risk of “acute racialized trauma,” the Star Tribune reported. Chauvin, who formerly worked with Floyd, is accused of kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes in response to an allegation of forging a $20 bill.
“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 said in an internal statement the Star Tribune obtained.
According to the charging document the newspaper obtained, Lydon interrupted a routine pat-down a Black sergeant was performing on Chauvin May 29 and proceeded to replace officers of color with white peers in jailing Chauvin. It was so noticeable that officers of color met to discuss what they considered a “segregation order.” Some considered quitting and others cried, the Star Tribune reported.
Bonnie Smith, a Minneapolis lawyer representing the eight employees, told the newspaper the superintendent’s decision would leave a “lasting impact on morale […] I think they deserve to have employment decisions made based on performance and behavior,” she said. “Their main goal is to make sure this never happens again.”