RAMSEY COUNTY, Minn. — Editors note: The video above originally aired on KARE 11 on June 24, 2020.
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners approved a settlement worth more than $1.45 million to resolve a discrimination lawsuit filed by corrections officers who said they were barred from guarding or even being on the same floor as Derek Chauvin when he was booked into the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in May 2020.
The lawsuit, filed in Feb. 2021 by eight current and former corrections officers, all of whom are people of color, alleged multiple violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, including race and color discrimination and a hostile work environment.
The county had reached a settlement earlier this month, pending board approval.
“Trust and accountability are critical to our safety as correctional officers, and Superintendent Lydon’s segregation order broke this trust. 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," the eight plaintiffs said a statement released by their attorneys, Nichols Kaster and Smith Law.
"Our goal in bringing attention to the segregation order was to ensure Ramsey County was held accountable for its discriminatory actions and practices. We hope the County and Detention Center will continue working toward overall culture changes that create a safe and welcoming work environment for all," their statement continued.
The lawsuit was filed after Steve Lydon, then-Superintendent of the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center, issued an order on May 29, 2020 prohibiting corrections officers of color from entering the fifth floor of the jail where Chauvin was being held. The former Minneapolis police officer had been arrested for placing his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes during a May 25 arrest, which ended in Floyd's death.
Chauvin was later found guilty of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder for Floyd’s death in state court and sentenced to 22 1/2 years. On the federal level, Chauvin was also found guilty of violating Floyd's civil rights and sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Lydon's order was rescinded about an hour after it was put into place, according to the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners.
The eight officers, who identify as Black, Hispanic, Pacific-Island American and multiracial, initially filed discrimination charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in June 2020. The department closed its file at the end of that year when the officers planned to file their own district court complaint.
One of the eight Ramsey County correctional officers of color who filed the discrimination charges against Ramsey County spoke with KARE 11 in June 2020.
The sergeant, who KARE 11 agreed not to identify because of his concern of retaliation inside and outside the jail, said the Ramsey County Sheriff’s failure to act is what prompted him and others to file the charges.
The sergeant said in a phone interview that he was stunned after hearing the order to segregate.
“I was in disbelief,” said the sergeant. “I really was in a state of shock that someone in this day and age would give an order like that and then have the nerve to defend it.”
After two mediations, the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit with a total payment of $1,455,000 allocated to the eight plaintiffs for damages, attorney fees and costs. Two plaintiffs were awarded $250,625, five were awarded $175,625 and one was awarded $75,625.
As part of the settlement, Ramsey County will have to issue a written statement and apology acknowledging that the order made by the Ramsey County Jail on May 29, 2020 was discriminatory and wrong.
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