George Floyd

George Floyd: only white prison guards allowed contact with Derek Chauvin

A state investigation is expected after non-white guards at Ramsey County jail were reassigned when the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd arrived.

George Floyd: only white prison guards allowed contact with Derek Chauvin
Stephen Maturen AFP

Eight black and Hispanic prison officers at the Ramsey County jail in Saint Paul where Derek Chauvin was initially held have filed charges of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights after being replaced by white officers when the former police officer, who has been charged with second degree murder over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May, were replaced by white officers when Chauvin arrived at the correctional facility. The complaint states the decision to remove all non-white officers from the floor of the jail where Chauvin was held amounts to a “segregation order.”

Ramsey County jail superintendent Steve Lydon has been temporarily relieved of his post following his admission that he dictated the order to only allow white officers access to Chauvin. The complaint, which will be handled by Minneapolis attorney Bonnie Smith, states that Lydon told one of the officers he would be a “liability” around Chauvin. Lydon said he realized his mistake and rescinded the order 45 minutes later, apologizing to those staff involved, but this version has been challenged by at least one officer who said he had his schedule changed after Chauvin was booked on 29 May.

On arriving at the jail, Chauvin was given a routine search by a black sergeant who has worked at the facility for over a decade and is a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. The sergeant, who has exercised his right to anonymity, said in the complaint that Lydon intervened and appointed two white officers to take Chauvin to his cell, telling the booking officer not to have any more contact with the inmate. It is also alleged that Lydon ordered the removal of all non-white officers from the fifth floor of the jail where Chauvin was to be held.

Local television station KSTP reported that the complaint stated one officer felt “humiliated” and some were seen crying after the order to leave the fifth floor - which houses high-profile detainees - to be assigned to other tasks.

"Employment decisions should be based on performance, not skin color”

The Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Assigning employees based on race or the color of their skin was profoundly degrading and humiliating, not to mention illegal,” Smith said in a statement. “These correctional officers go to work every day to keep our community safe and employment decisions should be based on performance, not skin color.”

Another officer said in the complaint that he had witnessed a white lieutenant allow Chauvin the use of her mobile phone in his cell on the prison’s CCTV.

A state investigation is expected to be launched into the allegations.

Chauvin was transferred from Ramsey County to Hennepin County jail two days later on 31 May before being moved to the Oak Park Heights state prison. The former police officer is accused of killing George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis after kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Three other officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao have also been charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder over the death of Floyd after they helped to pin him down and prevented passers-by from intervening.