Black History: Special Delivery!!
Eight officers of color filed a racial discrimination suit on February 9, 2021, stating that they were barred from guarding the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with the death of George Floyd. Officers state they were reassigned to work on other floors within the jail so that they would not come into contact with Chauvin. Court documents indicate the officers identifying as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and mixed-race were “segregated and prevented from doing their jobs by defendant solely because of the color of their skin”. Officers also stated that Chauvin received special treatment from a white lieutenant.
Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter after video footage recorded May 25, 2021, showed him placing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for approximately nine minutes, during which time Floyd repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. Attorney for the eight officers, Lucas Kaster said, “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.”
Attorney Kaster also stated, “The impact on our clients has been immense. They’re deeply humiliated and distressed, and the bonds necessary within the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been broken,” The lawsuit asserts that Superintendent Lydon gave orders that all officers of color were not allowed to guard Chauvin or have any interaction with him, or even to be on the same floor where he was being held. Attorney Kaster describes the officers as being “extremely upset and offended.” Devin Sullivan, one of the plaintiffs states in court documents that he was in the midst of patting down Chauvin when he was told to stop by Superintendent Lydon and then was replaced by a white officer.
The suit also states that two other officers observed on security cameras that a white lieutenant “was granted special access” to Chauvin. The lieutenant was given permission to enter Chauvin’s cell unit, sat on his bed, patted his back, “while appearing to comfort him.” and also let Chauvin use his cell phone. In response to concerns raised by officers, Lydon reportedly “denied that he was racist and defended his decision.” The lawsuit asserts violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, including race and color discrimination and a hostile work environment. The plaintiffs filed discrimination charges with the state Department of Human Rights. The officers and their legal team eventually requested that the case be closed so they could take legal action.
At a press conference on Feburary 9, 2021, Attorney Kaster said at a news conference that his clients sued to hold Lydon and Ramsey County “responsible for the discrimination that occurred under their watch.” The Star Tribune Newspaper indicated that a spokesman from the sheriff’s office initially denied the officers’ claims but later did confirm Lydon’s order. Lydon has been temporarily demoted while the department conducts an internal investigation. The outcome of the investigation is still unclear. In a statement provided to the Star Tribune, Lydon indicated he was trying to “protect and support minority employees by shielding them from Chauvin.” What type of “shielding” would officers possibly need from Chauvin? And! Why would the superintedent deny his actions? Why would Chauvin be given access to “special treatment”?
Attorney Kaster denied that any sort of explanation had ever been given to his clients at the time, and this explanation was only provided after the fact. The suit seeks unspecified damages, including damages from loss of past and future income and benefits and damages for mental anguish and suffering. A number of guards went on leave and missed pay due to the discrimination. One no longer works as a guard.