Posted on August 11, 2022

Minnesota County Settles With Minority Officers Blocked From Chauvin

Holly Bailey, Washington Post, August 9, 2022

A Minnesota county agreed to pay $1.5 million to eight minority correctional officers who sued after they said only White employees were allowed to guard or interact with Derek Chauvin at the jail where he was held after his arrest in the killing of George Floyd.

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to settle a lawsuit claiming racial discrimination by current and former employees at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul, where the former Minneapolis police officer surrendered after being charged in the 2020 killing.

Under settlement terms, the county agreed to pay the officers an amount roughly between $75,000 and $250,000 apiece to settle claims of discrimination, a hostile work environment and mental distress. They had said the then-superintendent at the jail, who is White, ordered employees of color to “segregate” on a separate floor from Chauvin and blocked them from doing their jobs because of their race. {snip}

As part of the settlements approved Tuesday, Ramsey County admitted no wrongdoing. But after voting to approve the settlement, board members issued a formal apology to the corrections officers for what one described as a “racist act” by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees operations at the jail, and criticized the department for continued “failure in leadership” and a “lack of accountability” for its handling of the May 29, 2020, incident.

“No one should ever should have questioned your ability to perform your job based on the color of your skin,” Ramsey County board chair Trista MatasCastillo said.

The eight officers — including four who still work for Ramsey County — filed a state civil rights complaint in June 2020 and later sued in state district court over allegations of racial discrimination. The officers said they were on regular duty at the jail when Chauvin was taken into custody after days of fiery unrest across the Twin Cities following Floyd’s death on May 25.

As the jail prepared for Chauvin’s arrival, a supervisor pulled all officers of color from their regular duties, according to the lawsuit, and asked them to report to the third floor of the facility, away from the fifth floor where Chauvin would be held in a secluded cell. All were replaced by White officers, the lawsuit claimed.

One of the plaintiffs, Devin Sullivan, an acting sergeant who is described in the lawsuit as Black with dark skin, had regularly processed high-profile inmates while working at the jail for more than a decade. According to the lawsuit, Sullivan was patting down Chauvin when he was interrupted and told to stop by Steve Lydon, the jail’s superintendent who replaced him with White officers.


On Tuesday, board chair MatasCastillo strongly criticized Sheriff Bob Fletcher and his office for its handling of the incident. “The lack of any real apology from the sheriff’s office and the fact that Steve Lydon remains to this day an appointed employee within the office reflects poor leadership and perpetuates the systemic racism that allowed a decision like this to occur,” MatasCastillo said.