NASW-Illinois Chapter Statement on the Call for Police Reform and the Role of Social Workers
Chicago, IL— As social workers, we are committed to the fight for racial justice and equity. As a nation, the discussions we have and actions we take from here on out will be paramount; they will certainly be complicated, and most steps we take will be too small. We are committed to having these difficult conversations and demanding giant leaps even when, in the moment, our elected leadership offers up small steps. While adding more social workers to work within a broken system may help in the short term, ultimately, our goal must be to dismantle a system that has proven to be dangerous and deadly for too many.
As a society, we have asked law enforcement to handle more than they can, more than they should, and more than they are equipped to address. Despite years of advocacy and data to prove its impact, funding for necessary community resources have plateaued or decreased while law enforcement budgets have ballooned. Ultimately, we support the drastic reallocation of taxpayer dollars to reflect community needs. In particular, we support demilitarizing police departments and using those funds to bolster communities. We support the removal of law enforcement from our educational institutions and working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. We support reforms that help communities, not police. Like so many fighting for justice, we support building a new system.
Social workers can and should play an important role in the creation of a new system. Social workers are trained in systems thinking—we see the whole picture, the whole person, the whole community. Social workers are versatile: we work in health care, child development, community organizing, and government. But most importantly, social workers are equipped with a professional code of ethics to guide our work. In that code of ethics is also the call to be self-reflective and to dismantle racism within the profession itself. That includes, at times, our destructive role in the regulation of the lives of marginalized communities including Black, Brown, and Indigenous families. Historically, the profession of social work has worked both within oppressive systems and worked to dismantle oppressive systems. Our presence alone does not reform inequity, and our own biases have far too often led to actions that run counter to our professional beliefs. It is on all of us to recognize our role in this and demand our profession live up to our ideals enshrined in our code. We have much work to do both internally and externally, and we are committed to helping to create a system that, above all, ensures communities are respected and get what they need and deserve.
Contributing Authors: Ali Leipsiger, MSW, LSW NASW-Illinois Chapter Member At-Large Kyle Hillman, Director of Legislative Affairs, NASW-Illinois Chapter
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. The NASW-Illinois Chapter (NASW-IL) is one of the association's largest chapters and advocates for over 20,000 social workers in Illinois alone. NASW-IL strives to advance social work careers, grow social work businesses, and protect the profession while seeking to also enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through advocacy.