It’s easy to despair, seeing the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death marked by another police shooting of a black man in Ferguson, Mo. The images of protest and confrontation were familiar enough that it might seem little has changed. But that’s hardly the story of the past 12 months. A point was reached early in the Black Lives Matter movement where anguish was channeled into a desire for change, the profound sort that the 2016 presidential candidates will have to address. “It goes beyond race,” says Charles Ramsey, co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. “It’s jobs. It’s education.”
Ramsey runs the police department in Philadelphia, where editor at large Karl Vick spent half of July reporting our cover story on how the past year has felt to cops, under the unforgiving gaze of both an often hostile public and the camera phones they now carry to wherever police show up. “The cops I rode with seemed to take it in stride, but I was struck by the level of hazard that they encounter on any given shift,” Karl says. “I wore the same Kevlar vest that gives cops’ midriffs that squared-off look, but by my last day I thought twice before following an officer to a car pulled over for a traffic stop.”
Black Lives Matter implies more than freedom from fear of death at the hands of police; the slogan takes in all the inequities and burdens of our lopsided history. But if police behavior is a focal point of that conversation, it’s worth joining them on patrol, as photographer Natalie Keyssar did to illustrate Karl’s story, and hearing how things look from behind the badge.
“We can change everything that’s about police,” says Ramsey. “But it’s not necessarily going to change the dynamic that’s happening in the street. There are social ills that are the drivers of violence that need to be addressed.”
Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR
What you said about …
Joel Stein’s cover story on how our lives will be changed by innovations in virtual reality (VR) was the talk of the tech world, with many condemning the cover image as a misrepresentation of the technology. PC Gamer magazine commented that the image of VR as “a mask that nerds use to blot out the world” was a threat to broader acceptance of the idea; Matthew Morandi of Portland, Ore., wrote on Twitter that TIME “may have just killed VR’s mainstream momentum.” But Hayley Tsukayama of the Washington Post saw the dustup differently, writing that the piece and the subsequent backlash perfectly captured the struggle that virtual reality–with its tech that “looks goofy”–will have breaking into the mainstream market, “no matter how cool us Kool-Aid drinkers tell the rest of the world it is.”
Readers couldn’t agree on whether Philip Elliott’s piece about billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch–who spoke to TIME in Dana Point, Calif., at a summit they host for conservative donors–was flattering or critical. Evan L. Ridgway of Leawood, Kans., said he was “shocked and deeply troubled” that the story didn’t address some of the brothers’ more controversial views, such as their positions on climate change and economic policy. Striking a different tone, Vera Jennings of Tucson, Ariz., took issue with what she saw as an implication that they wield their influence more furtively than prominent progressive donors do. “The Koch brothers promote hard working [and] starting businesses,” she wrote. “They also love our country.”
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This appears in the August 24, 2015 issue of TIME.