Port: We must have police departments

Abolishing police departments would be a tragic mistake that would increase, not decrease, the amount of suffering in society.

Fargo Glass & Paint employees board up windows Thursday, June 4, on the Fargo Police headquarters in preparation for possible rioting Friday. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MINOT, N.D. — There is a movement afoot to disband or defund America's police departments.

This is a gross overreaction, o ne that threatens the progress we could make on law enforcement reform in this moment of American history.

Absent the police, who will we call when someone breaks into our home? Or attacks one of us in a dark parking lot? Or opens fire in a crowded shopping mall?

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary," James Madison (or perhaps Alexander Hamilton) wrote in Federalist 51 .

We are not angels. We need government to make laws.


What good are laws without law enforcement?

Let's stop talking about abolishing police departments. Even if it happens — an improbable scenario outside of the most extremely left-wing conclaves of our nation — it would be a tragic mistake that would increase, not decrease, the amount of suffering in society.

Instead, let's start talking about how we can get cops refocused because the mission of law enforcement has crept.

We need the cops to stop thinking of themselves as warriors.

"All of our training, all of our equipment needs revolve around the idea that we should interact with the public like a SWAT team instead of as public servants," a member of the Fargo Police department told me recently. "Many of our officers come to work with the idea that every person they deal with is a threat."

That has to change.

We also need to get the cops out of the schools. We do not live in a police state. We do not need armed and armored cops roaming the halls of our schools. According to a report from the ACLU , a majority of students in North Dakota, some 53%, attend a school at which there is a police presence. Far more students in our state, about 74%, attend a school that fails to achieve the student-to-counselor ratio recommended by national organizations like the American School Counselor Association.

The defenders of school resource officers — they have an organization in our state, the North Dakota Association of School Resource Officers — say the cops in schools help "ensure the social, emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing of a student," as Josh Brown, a school resource officer in Bismarck and president of the NDASRO, has put it .


That makes it sound like these cops are counselors.

But they're not counselors.

They're cops.

Our kids need counselors. The cops need to go back to their original mission of enforcing the law.

I'm confident we could cite other examples of law enforcement mission creep — in some places, cops are tasked with drawing blood for sobriety tests — but you get my point.

We need our cops. But more than that, we need them to be professionals who are laser-focused on their central mission, not distracted by the "warrior cop" ideology or other extraneous duties.

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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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