London Fire Brigade in turmoil after report exposing racism, misogyny and harassment

Members of the fire brigade on Westminster Bridge in London in March 2017.

The suicide of a 21-year-old firefighter who said he was harassed by colleagues because of his Caribbean origins triggered the movement. After this tragedy that occurred last year, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioned an independent investigation into behavior within its services. The report to be made public soon undermines the LFB by revealing degrading practices that its command recognized on Friday 25 November.

“The report contains accounts of shocking misbehavior and painful experiences that took place over the years”in particular towards women, people from ethnic minorities and LGBTQ + people, reacted the LFB in a press release.

Resulting in particular from more than 2,000 testimonies from former and current members of the brigade, the investigation reveals a “institutional misogyny and racism”Nazir Afzal, former prosecutor and head of this investigation, said on Twitter.

Urine in a helmet, a noose…

Among the excerpts cited by British media are the examples of a woman whose helmet had been filled with urine, another that her male colleagues mocked about her weight by imitating the sound of a lorry backing up, as well a Muslim firefighter whose colleagues put bacon and sausage in his coat pockets, or a black firefighter who found a rope with a noose on his locker.

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“There is no place for discrimination, harassment and bullying in the squad and from today it will be crystal clear to officers what behaviors are unacceptable and what the consequences will be”said LFB chief Andy Roe, who wants “rebuilding trust among its agents and with the communities we are there to serve”.

In accordance with the report’s twenty or so recommendations, it intends to set up a ” zero tolerance “ with immediate sanctions, better consideration of testimonies of possible bad behavior, the obligation for the agents to carry cameras on them when they move around in people’s homes, and training to sensitize the leaders of the brigade on these subjects.

“Decisive moment”

This survey should be a “decisive moment” for London firefighters, reacted Friday evening the mayor of the British capital Sadiq Khan in a press release, describing“odious” the facts reported. He is part of “his full support” to the head of the LFB to implement the promised changes in his ranks.

London’s fire and rescue brigade is the largest in the country, with 5,000 firefighters, of whom less than 500 are women and just over 500 are from ethnic minorities, according to the report.

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Last month, another report denounced racism “institutional” in the judicial system, reflected in the decisions rendered and in the absence of diversity within the justice professions. This investigation targeting the LFB also recalls the scandal which had splashed the London police at the end of the 1990s, with the publication in 1999 of a report which had also pointed to institutional racism within it.

The World with AFP


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