For all the innovations in which U.S. local governments have led the way, like education, energy-efficient construction, and smarter mass transit, law enforcement agencies have been using the same blunt instruments (batons, guns) and the same broken-windows methods for decades. Surely, with the spotlight on policing at long last, reform could finally begin there, too. It didn't happen this year, says The Atlantic’s CityLab. It could have been a moment for self-reflection, when police leaders finally took a collective step back to truly examine the role that race plays in how they enforce the law. The U.S. Justice Department certainly began nudging local law enforcement toward that assignment, in places like St. Louis County, Mo., and Cleveland.
A counter-message interrupted: “The Ferguson Effect.” It is the idea that blacks are becoming more criminally emboldened and police more sheepish about arrests due to a fear of being filmed. In Chicago, calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation after disclosure of video showing Laquan McDonald’s shooting have led the mayor to admit that his police department might be steeped in a culture of violence against Latinos and African Americans. Emanuel headed off any rebuttal from the local police union by telling them not only would they have to change their ways, but they'd have to stop obstructing attempts to reform the police force as well. If 2016 is to get any better when it comes to policing, says CityLab, it will have to follow and improve upon Emanuel's about-face. Mayors and police chiefs must be able to challenge racial bias in their departments without rhetoric getting in their way.