Minority jail officers say they were prohibited from guarding Derek Chauvin

Their suit says they were forbidden from interacting or being on the same floor as the murder suspect.

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Eight correctional officers who identify as racial minorities have filed a lawsuit against Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul, Minnesota after the facility reassigned them once fired Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin arrived last spring. 

The men are alleging racial discrimination in being reassigned and barred from guarding Chauvin, who has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of George Floyd, inspiring protests across the nation. 

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin poses for a mugshot after being charged in the death of George Floyd. Eight correctional officers have filed a lawsuit against Ramsey County Adult Detention Center after the facility reassigned them once Chauvin arrived. (Photo by Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images)

The suit alleges the officers — who identify as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and mixed-race — were in their regular posts when they were informed by Superintendent Steve Lydon that they would be reassigned specifically because of Chauvin’s arrival. They were told all minority officers were forbidden from guarding, interacting or even being on the same floor as the murder suspect. 

A month later, in June 2020, the officers filed a discrimination complaint with the state’s Department of Human Rights, an action that appears to have not triggered an automatic probe, as is usually the case.

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“When Officer Chauvin arrived, they were prepared to do the jobs they had done every single day up to that point, until, that is, Superintendent Lydon’s order prevented them from doing so,” the correctional officers’ attorney, Lucas Kaster, said at a news conference Tuesday. 

His clients’ lawsuit against the facility, referred to as ADC, alleges they were “segregated and prevented from doing their jobs by defendant solely because of the color of their skin.”

“The impact on our clients has been immense,” said Kaster. “They’re deeply humiliated and distressed, and the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been broken.”

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Devin Sullivan, one of the plaintiffs in the case, notes that he regularly processed the intake of previous high-profile cases. Sullivan says he was in the middle of patting Chauvin down when he was told to stop and was replaced with a white officer. 

The suit also alleges two other jail officers witnessed a white female lieutenant reportedly related to Chauvin’s sister via marriage gain access to Chauvin’s cell unit, where she sat on his bed, patted his back and allowed him to use a cellphone. 

In a statement provided to the The Minneapolis Star-Tribune last summer, Lydon claimed, “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.” 

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