The Ramsey County Board settled a racial discrimination lawsuit Tuesday that awards eight correctional officers nearly $1.46 million.
The officers filed the lawsuit after a jail superintendent barred officers of color from guarding Derek Chauvin because their race might have been a "liability" around him. The former Minneapolis police officer was initially jailed in Ramsey County after his arrest in the murder of George Floyd. Video of the death prompted global outrage and days of rioting in Minnesota and elsewhere.
"No one ever should have questioned your ability to perform your job based on the color of your skin," Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo said in a statement. She apologized to the officers while approving the settlement Tuesday.
"Our goal in bringing attention to the segregation order was to ensure Ramsey County was held accountable for its discriminatory actions and practices," one of those officers, Devin Sullivan, said in a statement. "We hope the County and Detention Center will continue working toward overall culture changes that create a safe and welcoming work environment for all."
MatasCastillo called on leaders at the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office — including Sheriff Bob Fletcher himself — to respond, saying their actions that day were "racist, heinous" and "highly disrespectful."
"The lack of any real apology from the Sheriff's Office — and the fact that Steve Lydon [the jail superintendent at the time] remains, to this day, an appointed employee within the office — reflects poor leadership and perpetuates the systemic racism that allowed a decision such as this to occur," MatasCastillo said.
Lydon has said he separated officers out of "care and concern" for them, but he reversed the order within 45 minutes. He was later demoted.
Fletcher's office responded in a statement that read, "The Sheriff's Office was not a named party in the lawsuit filed against Ramsey County and consequently had no decisionmaking authority in the settlement with the eight plaintiffs."
Ramsey County's settlement ends years of litigation prompted by the 2020 arrest. The lawsuit explains that minority officers normally tasked to secure inmates like Chauvin were pulled from duty, replaced with white officers and barred from the fifth floor where Chauvin was being held.