A Minnesota county agreed this week to settle a lawsuit brought by eight correctional officers who say jail management kept them away from Derek Chauvin, the now-former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, due to their race.
The eight officers, all nonwhite, are expected to receive $1.45 million from Ramsey County after its board of commissioners voted unanimously to resolve the matter Tuesday. The county will also formally apologize.
The officers’ complaint stemmed from an incident involving Steve Lydon, then-superintendent of the Rammsey County Adult Detention Center.
When Chauvin was brought to the facility on May 29, 2020 ― four days after Floyd’s death in police custody ― Lydon issued an order barring corrections officers of color from entering the fifth floor where Chauvin was being held, according to documents filed with the county. Lydon rescinded the order around an hour later.
One of the officers alleged that a supervisor told them they were a “liability” around Chauvin, according to legal documents obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
At the time, Floyd’s death had begun to inspire widespread racial justice protests against the brutal treatment he received in police custody.
“I understood that the decision to segregate us had been made because we could not be trusted to carry out our work responsibilities professionally around the high-profile inmate — solely because of the color of our skin,” a Black acting sergeant wrote in a statement, per the Star Tribune. “I am not aware of a similar situation where white officers were segregated from an inmate.”
Lydon said that he quickly made the decision to separate correctional officers by race in order “to limit exposure” to a murder suspect who could potentially “aggravate” their feelings, the Star Tribune reported, citing a statement made during an internal investigation.
Lydon was later reportedly demoted.
Each individual corrections officer is set to receive specified amounts ranging from around $76,000 to $250,000. The funds will help cover attorneys’ fees, lost income and emotional distress, according to the county.