California prison officials said Friday that they suspended multiple employees who made racist jokes about the death of an African American man in police custody in Minneapolis, a disclosure that came amid protests across the state and nation.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “was made aware of abhorrent comments made on social media by some employees that will not be tolerated,” spokeswoman Dana Simas said. “The employees who made the comments were immediately suspended, and we are investigating the incidents fully.”
Secretary Ralph Diaz said in a letter to his staff that what he described as “distasteful jokes and comments” about the death of George Floyd dishonored the department. He called the comments “extremely hurtful and disrespectful to (Floyd’s) family and members of the community.”
“In addition to racist remarks, a religious group was also singled out for disparagement,” he said, without elaborating.
Simas would not say how many employees were suspended, where they are located, or whether they are correctional officers or have other duties, citing the active investigations.
Diaz said unethical or racist conduct will not be tolerated regardless of whether employees are sworn correctional officers or other employees, or happen while they are on duty or off duty.
The union representing correctional officers did not immediately comment.
Floyd died after several Minneapolis police officers sat on him and one was shown in a viral video with his knee on Floyd’s neck. That officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter.