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  • NASW-IL Staff

Final Recommendations: NASW-Illinois Chapter Task Force on Racial Justice

NASW-Illinois Chapter Task Force on Racial Justice Co-Chairs Latesha Newson, LCSW, and Kristin Rubbelke, MSW, LSW

The year 2020 brought a year of reckoning for racial justice issues. The spring began with a worldwide pandemic. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) not only sent the world into complete lockdown but highlighted inexcusable health disparities in communities of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). The summer was overwhelmed with civil unrest due to the disturbing deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the brutal shooting of Jacob Blake—many of which were caught on video. The eyes of the world were forever changed, and with this increasing awareness came a deep pursuit for racial and social justice.

Racial injustice has been a longstanding issue that dates past the creation of this nation. Systemic oppression, racial discrimination and division, and the misappropriation of power have been ingrained in the fabric of our country and continues to perpetuate in our society from generation to generation. It is the alarming—but not uncommon—events that took place this past summer involving police that have undoubtedly brought about a reckoning in our nation as it relates to the culture of policing and a coincidingly skewed criminal justice system, with the desperate need for reform.

This past August, NASW-Illinois Chapter President Grisel Rodríguez-Morales appointed board members Latesha Newson and Kristin Rubbelke to co-chair a Task Force on Racial Justice to give member-driven leadership guidance on how to approach racial justice initiatives throughout the state. Driven by our profession’s ethical standards to promote “policies that safeguard the rights and confirm equity and social justice for all people,” there became an urgent cry for reflection and reconciliation in the face of racial justice—and many people were ready to participate in that call. Thank you to Grisel Rodríguez-Morales for the creation of this task force and the support you provided throughout its journey.

It was the intent of the Task Force on Racial Justice to propose effective measures of reform and increase accountability in policing. Following an intentional, lengthy application process, the co-chairs formed a task force of 15 diverse, well-informed members. The members of the task force included the following individuals:

  • Co-chair Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW

  • Co-chair Kristin Rubbelke, MSW, LSW

  • Jenny Andersen, LCSW

  • Jasmin Aramburu, MSW

  • Merari E. Fernandez Castro, LCSW

  • Chante Gamby, LCSW

  • Brit Holmberg , LCSW

  • Michelle McMartin, LCSW

  • Darby Morhardt, PhD, LCSW

  • LaTasha Roberson Guifarro, MSW

  • Jenna Sullivan

  • Heather Fraser, LCSW

  • Charisma Pryor, LSW

  • Cassandra Walker, LCSW

  • Grisel Rodríguez-Morales, MSW, LCSW

A major component of the task force’s work was to develop a member survey on racial justice, which included a significant focus on police reform. The survey was sent to the entire NASW-Illinois Chapter membership in early October. An overwhelming number of responses were received and reviewed by the task force. Thank you to all who participated. The responses truly spoke to the importance of the issue and played a major role in the compilation of recommendations.

The task force also strongly believed in community self-determination. In prioritizing the voices and shared needs of the BIPOC community, the task force followed the lead of prominent BIPOC groups and their proposals on behalf of their communities. The groups included the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, Black Lives Matter, the Civilian Police Accountability Council, Access Living, the Chicago Torture Justice Center, and various other organizations’ work.

After meeting four times over an intense, two-month process, the task force built its final recommendations for the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors to consider for approval at its November 18, 2020, meeting. Please keep in mind that these recommendations are not the end of the NASW-Illinois Chapter’s work towards racial and social justice, but are only a guideline for action moving forward.

The NASW-Illinois Chapter supports the following recommendations:

  • Combating and bringing an end to systems of oppression that perpetuate racial and systemic injustices

  • Empowering and supporting Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) in the creation and sustainment of policies that affect their communities

  • The reallocation of funds from police budgets to create and fund community response teams and resources for behavioral health (mental and substance use disorders), physical health, domestic violence, housing insecurities, food deserts, job programs, and other community needs

  • The creation of supportive non-police response services to respond to non-violent/ 911 calls (including but not limited to domestic violence, domestic disputes, substance abuse, mental health crises)

  • Psychological testing or mental and emotional fitness testing during the pre-hire screening process of police officers to more effectively ensure the safety and suitability of the person for the position, and annual screenings to continue to ensure suitability over time

  • Training police officers in areas including de-escalation strategies, trauma-informed interactions, implicit bias and anti-racism, and best practices for interacting with people with behavioral health needs, suicidal ideations, intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities, and dementia with the goal to reduce instances of use of force

  • Ending qualified immunity and increasing police accountability for practices and actions while on duty—this may include ending public funding of police settlements and instead requiring police to obtain liability insurance to cover police misconduct

  • Communities of color and their pursuit for justice and accountability when harmed by police including but not limited to the implementation of civilian oversight of police with an emphasis on including BIPOC members, members who have been victims of the police (and their family members), and mental health professionals

  • Enhancing whistleblower protections for police officers and other police department employees who witness police misconduct or abuse of power and report it

  • The removal of police and SROs from schools and investing in building trauma-informed schools and practices

  • Increasing access and funding to school and community resources that provide restorative justice practices, social emotional learning, and de-escalation training

  • Limits to social work caseloads that take into account the needs of the clients, students, families, schools, and communities guided by recommended ratios

  • Decreasing youth incarceration by expanding and implementing restorative and/or transformative justice practices including but not limited to support services, accountability circles, and diversion programs to reduce criminalization and recidivism

  • Increasing social worker accountability in anti-racism training and cultural competency/humility

  • Openly and continuously exploring social work’s role in these oppressive systems and redesigning curricula to promote change in practice and break down systemic barriers that historically marginalize people

  • Recognizing our individual and collective power to reimagine and help society transform to become racially just

Task force recommendations were approved by the NASW-Illinois Chapter Board of Directors on November 18, 2020.



Latesha Newson, LCSW

NASW-Illinois Chapter Calumet District Chair & Board Member

Kristin Rubbelke, MSW, LSW

NASW-Illinois Chapter Member At-Large & Board Member

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