Minnesota police officers of colour who were barred from guarding Derek Chauvin after he was arrested for murdering George Floyd have been awarded almost $1.5m in compensation.
The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners in Minnesota approved the $1.455m settlement on Tuesday for eight Ramsey County Adult Detention Center correctional officers.
As part of the settlement, the county apologised for the “racist, heinous, highly disrespectful” actions of one of its workers but continued to deny liability.
The eight officers, who are Black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander-American and multiracial, filed a lawsuit last year over a ban on officers of colour guarding Chauvin at the jail.
The white Minneapolis police officer was convicted of murdering George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020 when he knelt on the Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes as he begged for air saying “I can’t breathe”.
Footage of the killing surfaced online and sent shockwaves across the globe, setting off racial justice protests calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality against people of colour.
When Chauvin was arrested and held at the jail back in 2020, the detention center’s superintendent Steve Lydon banned officers of colour from guarding the killer. According to the lawsuit, he barred the officers from “interacting with or guarding Chauvin” or from “going anywhere” on the floor where he was being held in the facility.
The officers claimed that the ban amounted to a “segregation” order and violated their human rights under the Minnesota Humans Rights Act. All officers of colour at the facility were assigned in areas where Chauvin was held were segregated and reassigned to other parts of the jail.
Mr Lydon previously admitted to implementing the order, but said that he reversed it soon after speaking to some of the officers.
Derek Chauvin during his sentencing at his state trial in 2021
Following an uproar over the ban at the time, he claimed that he was trying “to protect and support employees who may have been traumatized and may have heightened ongoing trauma by having to deal with Chauvin”.
At a county board meeting on Tuesday, Ramsey County Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo announced the settlement and read out a statement apologising to the officers for the “discriminatory and wrong” order.
She acknowledged that the officers’ abilities to fulfil their jobs should not have been called into question because of their racial identity.
“On behalf of the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners and this entire organization, I extend our profound apologies today to Devin Sullivan, Mohamud Salad, Timothy Ivory, Anabel Herrera, Stanley Hafoka, Nathaniel Gomez-Haustein, Cedric Dodds and Chelsea Cox,” said Ms MatasCastillo.
“The actions taken by Sheriff’s Office leadership that day were more than just wrong – they were racist, heinous, highly disrespectful and completely out of line with Ramsey County’s vision and values. No one ever should have questioned your ability to perform your job based on the colour of your skin.”
The county “has denied and continues to deny liability”, the board said.
An attorney for the officers celebrated the settlement and said it marked a step towards “justice and accountability”.
“During an unprecedented time in our community, the officers took the bold action to step forward and speak out against the segregation and racism they experienced,” said Lucas Kaster.
A mural of George Floyd in downtown Houston, Texas
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter at his state trial back in April 2021. He was sentenced to 22-and-a-half years in prison and is currently being held at Minnesota’s maximum security prison at Oak Park Heights. Chauvin is appealing the charges.
In December, the convicted killer reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors on charges that he violated Floyd’s civil rights during his Memorial Day murder.
He was sentenced to 21 years on the federal charges in early July, to be served concurrently with his state sentence. Under the terms of the plea deal, he will be moved to a federal prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Source by www.independent.co.uk