Martin Kaste

Murders are on the rise in the United States.

The national murder rate jumped dramatically in 2015, and early indications are that it rose again in 2016, though official numbers aren't available yet.

Sgt. Marty Tucker thinks millennials have trouble talking to strangers. Tucker runs training for the Sheriff's Office in Spokane, Wash., and he says new recruits seem inhibited when making face-to-face contacts with members of the public.

"They're so stressed out about making contact that they don't think about anything else," he says. "So they get up there, and then they'll freeze up."

The darkest moment for American police this year was July 7 in downtown Dallas, when police officers providing security for a peaceful protest march suddenly found themselves under attack. And those weren't the only cops targeted this year. Deadly ambushes followed in Baton Rouge, Des Moines and Palm Springs.

As a result, many police will remember 2016 as a grim chapter in what many call the "war on cops." These ambush-killings of officers created a sense that they were under siege, threatening to poison the post-Ferguson debate over police reform.

During the campaign, Donald Trump railed against "sanctuary cities" — generally understood to be jurisdictions where local law enforcement doesn't cooperate sufficiently with federal immigration authorities. Sanctuary cities were an especially hot issue because of the death of Kate Steinle, a tourist shot by a Mexican national in San Francisco in 2015.

Gun control has been a minor theme of this year's presidential election, as Hillary Clinton promises to close "loopholes" in the background checks for gun purchasers, and Donald Trump pledges "unwavering support" for the Second Amendment.

The real battle over guns, though, has been waged at the state level this year — with a new emphasis on ballot initiatives.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Law enforcement is increasingly worried about losing access to powerful tools for searching social media because of changing attitudes at the social media companies that allow the searches.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Americans are seeing more homeless camps, especially on the West Coast. A number of cities there have declared emergencies over the problem, and as they struggle to find solutions, an angry debate has broken out about how much tolerance should be shown to illegal camps that crop up in public spaces.

The shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old African-American man, by Charlotte, N.C., police is under investigation and the circumstances are very much in dispute, but when you listen to protesters, you hear that their frustration isn't about just this one case.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, many beloved public spaces were abruptly closed or had their access severely restricted. At the time, the public generally resigned itself to the new restrictions as a necessary evil in a time of war.

Fifteen years later, the public has stopped noticing. In some cases, such as scenic overlooks at certain dams, the government spent millions on new roads and bridges to allow the public access from less risky positions. But in other places, the restrictions remain, and it's the public space itself that has faded from view.

When should police be able to deactivate your social media account?

The question is becoming more urgent, as people use real-time connections in the middle of critical incidents involving law enforcement.

In the case of Korryn Gaines in Baltimore County, Md., earlier this month, police said that a suspect actively using a social media connection makes a standoff worse.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

On Sunday, in the hours after the attack on officers in Baton Rouge, La., police reformers were quick to condemn the killings — and there were touching efforts to bridge the divide between the black community and police, such as a cookout in Wichita, Kan. Planned as a protest, it was repurposed as a community barbecue with local police.

The recent targeted attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge have law enforcement on edge. Some departments are telling officers to patrol in pairs when possible, and to be extra vigilant about possible ambush.

Complicating matters is the question of how to interpret and react to the presence of a gun. With more Americans now exercising their legal right to carry firearms, police find themselves having to make rapid judgments about whether an armed citizen is a threat.

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