Eight Minnesota corrections officers, all people of color who said they were barred from interacting with Derek Chauvin while he was awaiting trial in the death of George Floyd, were awarded a nearly $1.5 million settlement Tuesday.
Chauvin was arrested for Floyd’s murder on May 29, 2020, and brought to the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center. The officers – who identify as African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander American and multiracial – alleged former jail superintendent Steve Lydon prohibited all officers of color from guarding Chauvin or entering the floor where he was being held just before he arrived. The order was rescinded about an hour later, according to a resolution to a lawsuit the officers filed.
Lydon reportedly told his superiors that he made the decision “to protect and support” minority employees by keeping them away from the former Minneapolis police officer, the Star Tribune reported.
“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 a statement given during an internal investigation that the sheriff’s office provided the Star Tribune shortly after the incident.
Lydon was later demoted but still works for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail.
The officers filed a racial discrimination complaint in June 2020 with the state’s Department of Human Rights but closed it to pursue litigation. The group filed a lawsuit in February 2021 alleging race and color discrimination and hostile environment.
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to settle the lawsuit.The settlement required the county to issue a written apology and acknowledge that the order was discriminatory and wrong.
Board Chairwoman Trista MatasCastillo apologized in a statement “for the trauma you experienced and the ongoing harm this racist incident caused.”
“The actions taken by Sheriff’s Office leadership that day were more than just wrong – they were racist, heinous, highly disrespectful and completely out of line with Ramsey County’s vision and values,” she said. “No one ever should have questioned your ability to perform your job based on the color of your skin.”
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment Wednesday. Lydon was not immediately able to be reached.
“Trust and accountability are critical to our safety as correctional officers, and Superintendent Lydon’s segregation order broke this trust,” Sullivan said in a statement released by his attorneys to the media. “Each of us is on our own journey toward healing from this damaging discrimination and the aftermath, and these settlements will help us open a next chapter.”
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Contributing: The Associated Press