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A question with no answer that must still be asked

Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor was sentenced Friday to 12-1/2 years in prison for the shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, the unarmed woman who had called 911 seeking Noor’s help.

Noor’s case is unusual — rarely does a police officer who kills someone while on duty get indicted, let alone convicted, in America. It is also unusual in that Noor, a Somali immigrant, is black and his victim was white, leading members of his community to ask the question: If he had been white and Damond black, wouldhe have been charged?

There’s really no way to answer that question, but it is a question that still needs to be asked as part of the larger discussion of police-minority relations in America. There have been many well-publicized cases, including cases here in Minnesota, of police shooting unarmed black men, seemingly with no consequences to the officers. While each and every shooting has its own unique set of circumstances and factors, it’s worth discussing whether race plays a role in these shooting and their aftermaths. Does it make a difference when a white officer shoots a black person? Is it treated differently than if a black officer shoots a white person?

We would hope the answer is absolutely not, but the fact that Noor is one of the few officers actually convicted and sent to prison might suggest otherwise. We have no doubt that his action that night was horribly wrong, and he should have been convicted. But a lot of people are wondering whether other officers in the same situation are getting the same kind of justice.

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