Eight minority correctional officers filed a racial discrimination lawsuit in a Minnesota county jail, claiming they had been barred from prosecuting a former Minneapolis police officer on George Floyd’s death.
The lawsuit was filed in Minnesota District Court on Tuesday, alleging that a superintendent of the St. Pauli Ramsey County Adult Detention Center moved colored officers to another floor when Derek Chauvin was arrested last May on murder charges.
According to the lawsuit, the officers – who testify to African-American, Spanish, Pacific islands and mixed species – were “isolated and prevented by the accused solely from doing their job because of the color of their skin.”
Officers also claim that Sovin received special treatment from a white lieutenant.
“When Officer Chauvin arrived, they were prepared to do their job until the day they did each day, until they were prevented from doing so by Superintendent Lydon’s instruction,” attorney Lucas Kaster said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“It has a huge impact on our customers. They have been deeply humiliated and anxious, and the bonds needed in the high-stress and high-pressure environment of the ADC have been severed,” he added.
Shauvin was arrested on May 29, charged with second-rate murder and homicide. The video filmed days before, on May 25, showed that Floyd was kneeling on his neck for about nine minutes, while Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.
According to the lawsuit, the correctional officers performed their regular job duties in prison when they learned that they would be reappointed due to Chauvin’s arrival.
The lawsuit alleges that Superintendent Steve Lydon ordered that all minority officers not allow him to guard, contact, or even be on the 5th floor where he was a chauvinist.
Officers, according to the lawsuit, “extremely upset and violated” the order.
One of the plaintiffs, Devin Sullivan, regularly processes and records high-profile prisoners. The lawsuit claims he was in the midst of skinny punches when Lydon told him to stop and replaced him with a white officer.
The lawsuit also states that two other officers saw on security cameras that a white lieutenant had “special access” to chauvin. The lieutenant was allowed to enter the sovin’s cell, sat down on his bed, patted his back “while he appeared to comfort him,” and let sovin use his cell phone.
Several minority officers were asked to speak to Lydon, who “denied being racist and defended his decision.”
The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office did not send a comment on Tuesday and Lydon was not available at the numbers indicated to him.
In June, the plaintiffs filed an allegation of discrimination with the state Department of Human Rights. Kaster told the Star Tribune that the action was never withdrawn, so lawyers asked to close it so they could take legal action.
The lawyer said at a news conference on Tuesday that his clients had filed a lawsuit with the aim of “holding Lydon and Ramsey counties” responsible “for discrimination under their control.”
According to the Star Tribune, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office initially denied the officers ’allegations, but later acknowledged Lydon’s order and said the inspector was temporarily laid off while the department conducted an internal investigation. It is not clear what the outcome of the study was.
In a statement made during the investigation, which the sheriff’s office passed on to the Star Tribune, the supervisor said he would try to “protect and support” minority employees by protecting them from Sovin.
Kaster said Tuesday that Lydon’s explanation was never given to his clients and was only given after that.