The year of reckoning: How 2020 revealed the fault lines in American policing

Updated 2112 GMT (0512 HKT) December 18, 2020

(CNN)Every morning, Victor Wahl walks into his office with a sense of dread.

Months of intense protests and heightened scrutiny have left the acting police chief of Madison, Wisconsin, like many in his shoes, on edge about what lies ahead.
"I'm fearful to find a bunch of resignations on my desk," said Wahl, whose department has lost twice the number of officers this year compared to previous years.
The national reckoning over race and policing -- sparked by the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day -- resulted in more than 10,000 demonstrations nationwide. At one point, Wahl's department faced 119 straight days of protests.
"We're asking so much of officers now," Wahl said.
The killing of Floyd -- compounded by a string of other high-profile police encounters -- has driven the public outcry for change in policing, with some calling to defund or abolish police departments entirely. Agencies have faced frequent Black Lives Matter protests, armed counter protestors, and demonstrations over Covid-restrictions and election results -- with much of the interactions with police instantly captured on video, leaving little room for excuses and louder demands for transparency and accountability.
Police in Brooklyn turn out in response to a massive march in June, demanding justice for all victims of police brutality, making a loud call to defund the NYPD and invest in communities.
What's more, a generation of older cops who joined the profession during hiring sprees in the 1990s are ready to retire. And, there is evidence that some officers are rethinking their careers and leaving their jobs. Meanwhile, agencies throughout the country are struggling to attract new recruits to their ranks.
All this has led policing in America to a defining crossroads: Will there be substantive reforms to improve how law enforcement protects and serves the community, or will the energy of 2020 dissipate and allow agencies to retreat to their traditional ways of enforcing law and order?
"It worries me that the profession as a whole does not see the damage we've done to our communities," said RaShall Brackney, the police chief of Charlottesville, Virginia. "Without that understanding and reckoning of it, it will continue."

How 2020 delivered a 'collision' of challenges

Minneapolis police watched the demonstrators protested the killing of George Floyd outside the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct office in south Minneapolis.