Eight non-white correctional officers who worked in the prison of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd, have brought discrimination charges against the Department of Human Rights in Minnesota, alleging that their race has prevented them from being Chauvin protect or contact him.
The allegations are likely to reinforce the already violent criticism of the city's criminal justice system, which is affected by personnel and measures that discriminate against the city's black residents.
According to the Star Tribune, which had received a copy of the charge, Chauvin was booked in Ramsey County Jail the day he was charged with his knee for murder and third-degree manslaughter for suffocating Floyd.
All colored officials were informed that they could potentially be "liable" for dealing with Chauvin and, according to the Star Tribune, were instructed to work on a separate floor.
The charges also allege that a black sergeant, normally charged with monitoring high-profile inmates, has been ordered to stop patting Chauvin and has been replaced by white officers. A white officer reportedly allowed Chauvin to use her cell phone, which violated the prison protocol.
"I understood that the decision to separate us was made because we could not be trusted to perform our duties professionally around the high-profile inmates simply because of the color of our skin," wrote a black sergeant in the indictment. "I am not aware of a similar situation in which white officers were separated from an inmate."
The eight colored officers 'attorney, Bonnie Smith, said it was a blow to the officers' morale as it signaled mistrust over their race.
"I think they deserve to have employment decisions based on performance and behavior," she said, according to Star Tribune. "Your main goal is to ensure that this never happens again."
The Ramsey County's sheriff's office initially denied reports on social media that excluded non-white officers from contact with Chauvin. Prison superintendent Steve Lydon has reportedly told his superiors that his steps to remove non-white officers from the Chauvin area are intended to "protect and assist them." It has now been downgraded.
"Out of concern and worry, and with no comfort in time, I decided to limit exposure to color workers to a suspect who could potentially exacerbate these feelings," Lydon said in a statement released during an internal investigation into the Star Tribune.
The suspected acts of prison officials implicitly suggest that some managers of the correction system in the subway area trust more white officers than non-white officers to act professionally. And they are likely to further strengthen control over the criminal justice system in Minneapolis.
As protests against George Floyd's death spread across Minneapolis and around the world, the state's Department of Human Rights opened an investigation into allegations of racial bias in the Minneapolis Police Department. An investigation by the Ramsey County Correctional Agency is now expected, reports the Star Tribune.
According to the New York Times, blacks make up 20 percent of the Minneapolis population, but are more likely to be "run over, arrested, and used against them violently than whites". And more than 60 percent of the victims of police shootings in the city between 2009 and 2019 were black. MinnPost reported in 2015 that "Blacks make up less than 6 percent of the Minnesota population … but 35 percent of the prison population."
"The truth is we don't have a good story," said Jamar Nelson, a community activist, to The Times in May after Floyd's death. "The biggest complaint is that the community thinks the police department is racist, bigoted and unloving towards the black community."
Legislation on police reform in the state stalled this weekend as Republicans and Democrats failed to reach an agreement. Critics say the police union has promoted a toxic law enforcement culture in Minneapolis, as racial justice activists Kandace Montgomery and Miski Noor said:
Racism in the Minneapolis police force is far from hidden. A racial discrimination lawsuit launched in 2007 by black police officers (including current police chief Medaria Arradondo before becoming head of the branch) found that the head of the police union was wearing an open white power patch on his motorcycle jacket. This is the same lieutenant who called Black Lives Matter a "terrorist organization" and organized the police union's "Cops for Trump" fundraiser.
Montgomery and Noor have called for a radical restructuring of the city's criminal justice system. "(We) believe it is time for Minneapolis to part with the violent police infrastructure and invest in strengthening black communities," they wrote.
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