Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi established the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 in response to Trayvon Martin's death and his killer's subsequent acquittal. (1) Since then, their movement has gained traction around the world with the protests in response to the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd. (2) During the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, people across the United States joined in calls to defund the police and increase community investment. Advocates suggest that social workers could replace or supplement police officers, although some social workers passionately object to their further incorporation into law enforcement. (3) Social workers, as well as law enforcement members, fiercely debate whether an increase in collaborative work is the right policy move.
Those in favor of incorporating social workers into law enforcement and emergency response highlight the extensive training that social workers undergo for licensure. (4) Social workers have experience in deescalation and routinely work with people with mental illnesses or disabilities. (5) Social workers also have experience with diagnosis, assessment, and intervention, among other crucial skills for emergency response work. (6) Further, proponents point out that social workers are already integrated into police emergency response teams. (7) Angelo McClain, the CEO of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), argues that these social workers support the police in responding to emergency calls more compassionately and "help police excel in fulfilling their mission to protect and serve," (8) and further incorporation would support the progress already made.
On the other hand, there are various reasons why social workers should not be the...