Port: Law enforcement abuse is a problem for all of us

The problem is acute for minority communities, but law enforcement abuse transcends racial lines.

Hundreds gather in support of George Floyd at the downtown parking garage in Grand Forks on Thursday, June 4, during a peaceful demonstration, which wound through downtown Grand Forks, briefly stopping near the Red River before heading through the city again. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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MINOT, N.D. — The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer has galvanized America's debate over law enforcement's relationship to minority communities.

Particularly black communities.

But it's interesting to note that the last high-profile case of a Minneapolis cop killing someone involved a white woman, Justine Damond , who was murdered by a Somali-American cop named Mohamed Noor.

Noor is currently serving a 12-year sentence after being convicted of third-degree murder and manslaughter.

I've been thinking a lot about both Damond and Floyd.


I want to articulate a point about law enforcement abuse in America being a problem for all of us, regardless of our skin tone, without obscuring that the problem is particularly acute for our black friends and neighbors.

According to data gathered by the Washington Post , since 2015, police have killed black people at a rate of 31 deaths per 1 million black citizens.

That rate is 23 per million for Hispanics and 13 per million for whites.

There is some missing context here -- how many of the deaths were justified? how can we statistically determine what's justified and what's not when the accountability system has been so slanted in favor of protecting cops ? -- but taken at face value, those figures illustrate the problem.

A lot of black people, black men, in particular, are being killed by the police.

But a lot of Hispanics and whites and other racial demographics are getting killed, too. Police have killed more whites since 2015 (2,473) than blacks and Hispanics combined (2,198).

The problem is acute for minority communities, but law enforcement abuse transcends racial lines.

Nor should deaths be the sole metric for how we measure this affront to civil society. Being killed is the worst possible outcome you could have from an interaction with the police, but other terrible things could happen as well.


You could be beaten, but not killed, by the police.

They could invade your home on a no-knock raid, and maybe kill your pets because they have the wrong address .

You could have your property unjustly taken from you by law enforcement through mechanisms like civil asset forfeiture.

You could be unlawfully surveilled or searched by the police.

These are injustices, too.

Recently, the courts in North Dakota have been admonishing law enforcement for violating the civil rights of defendants in drug cases, resulting in some quite embarrassing dismissals. In one ruling, District Court Judge Jay Schmitz warned against "the dangers of turning a blind eye to official abuses of our fundamental freedoms in the name of a 'war on drugs.'"

These cases didn't involve deaths, thankfully, but they feature the police repeatedly violating the Fourth Amendment.

The victims? Asian Americans, in many of the cases, a demographic that is, statistically, even less likely than whites to be harassed by police.


We all have rights.

We all deserve to be protected from law enforcement abuse, whether it's unlawful detainment or unreasonable searches and seizures or, most tragically, the unjustified use of force.

Blacks deal with this more than the rest of us, but a travesty is a travesty, regardless of skin color.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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