The following is an open letter from the National Association of Social Workers in New Jersey.
The Trump Administration’s executive order (EO) on police reform is inadequate to respond to the longstanding crisis of systemic racism in policing. It does not mandate national use of force guidelines, ban chokeholds or greatly curtail no-knock warrants nor does it attribute African Americans’ risk for bodily harm or death during a police encounter to systemic racism.
Ending systemic racism cannot be achieved with a single act of Congress. Numerous reforms are needed at all levels. But the Justice in Policing Act is a crucial step forward. This urgently needed legislation, supported by more than 200 members of the House, calls for comprehensive changes in police culture and policies – changes that address the systemic, root causes of distrust of police in communities of color.
“Social workers have had, and will continue to have, a major role providing anti-racist services and developing anti-racist policies in all sectors of the criminal justice system,” said Jennifer Thompson, MSW and Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers New Jersey. “But we must also remember that racism is a public health crisis that goes beyond policing. Police violence is but one manifestation of the racism plaguing our society.”
Underlying these gruesome, widely shared videos we have seen, is an entire system of mass incarceration and centuries of systemic racism in public policy governing housing, healthcare, and human services.
Ms. Thompson furthered, “Social workers see these impacts in every facet of health and human services where we work; as the predominant providers of behavioral healthcare in the state, in child and adult protection, doctors’ offices and hospitals, schools, prisons, and nursing homes. In each of these areas of practice, racial disparities in outcomes are common, not because of factors internal to black people and other people of color, but because of racism in the environment.”
Now, more than ever, it is vital for leaders – local, state and federal to bring social workers to the table, creating lasting seats for our thought leadership, experience and knowledge of community organizing. Thompson concluded, “It is not enough to invoke our profession’s name – now is the time to recognize the value of our work, follow our leadership on critical issues such as dismantling racism and work collaboratively toward solutions that are rooted in our professional code of ethics that calls us to find solutions that are focused on social justice, the dignity and worth of each person, and the importance of human relationships.”
SOURCE National Association of Social Workers