African Americans, police reform, alternative policing models, public safety, social justice


George Floyd’s death sparked an intense national debate about policing practices. In social work, the discussion has generally focused on whether the profession should partner with, or shun, law enforcement. While affirming the need for structural change, this paper suggests a different approach; that social workers should advocate with and on behalf of African American communities to implement a public safety model that reflects their preferences. After discussing how practitioners can facilitate structural reform in this arena, five alternative models of public safety are reviewed to familiarize readers with options that may have some degree of currency with African Americans: (1) reforming existing police departments; (2) increasing community policing; (3) disbanding police departments; (4) abolishing policing; and (5) indigenizing law enforcement.

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