A Minnesota corrections officer is under internal investigation following an outburst during Tuesday’s statewide moment of silence for George Floyd.
Gov. Tim Walz issued a proclamation that morning to coincide with the 46-year-old’s funeral service in Houston and honor other lives cut short by “systems of racism and discrimination” in the state.
But when prison administrators cleared the air for the remembrance, a voice crackled through on their radios:
“Is this for the injustice of having Derek Chauvin locked up?” the Stillwater prison guard reportedly said, referring to the veteran Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck before he died on Memorial Day.
The comment was met with stunned silence. The officer who made the remark was escorted out of the prison and remains on paid leave. Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell confirmed the nature of the incident and status of the pending investigation.
Several minority officers filed complaints about the incident, describing the conduct as inappropriate.
It’s unclear whether prisoners nearby overheard the exchange.
“In the interest of everyone, we made a decision to send him home,” Schnell said. “Comments like that have the potential to affect the safety of the facility.”
Union officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Despite the differences in their roles, many corrections officers view themselves as another critical rung of law enforcement and identify with the daily challenges police face on the job.
Chauvin is awaiting trial at Oak Park Heights prison on a second-degree murder charge in Floyd’s death. It’s the state’s only maximum-security facility. As is common with other high-profile inmates, he is being held in administrative segregation — meaning that he is isolated from the general population for his protection but maintains certain privileges.
In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, Schnell sent an e-mail to all 4,300 corrections staff members to address the tragedy and announce his intent to hold two employee listening sessions, one specifically for minority employees.
“I would particularly like to provide space for our DOC colleagues of color to discuss and process our collective work in a system that reflects a profound disparate impact on people of color,” he wrote. “These realities cannot be overlooked and their impact cannot be underestimated. Starting these conversations will not be easy, but they are profoundly necessary.”