WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 13 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Damning report reveals institutional racism and sexism within London fire brigade  

Damning report reveals institutional racism and sexism within London fire brigade  

Pic: Patrick Maguire
Red Cell: Patrick Maguire from Proof magazine, issue 4

A new report has revealed institutional racism, misogyny and bullying culture within the UK’s largest fire and rescue organisation. The culture report details the experiences of many female and BAME firefighters who have experienced first-hand the bullying culture at London fire brigade (LFB).

One Muslim firefighter recalls finding pork meat stuffed in his uniform, as well as having his locker graffitied with terrorist-affiliated material. Another black firefighter found a noose placed in his locker.

Experiences amongst female firefighters involved allegations of physical and sexual assault within the brigade, with the report detailing how male firefighters are known to urinate into the helmets of their female colleagues, as well as holding group viewings of porn at some fire stations. Of the 4,500 firefighters within LFB, only 425 are women and just over 500 are from ethnic minorities.

The misogyny is also apparent as women are the target of the so called ‘banter’ culture. One female firefighter confirmed that, during routine domestic safety inspections, male firefighters rummage through women’s drawers ‘looking for underwear and sex toys’; if successful they label the women as ‘sluts’. Female firefighters also reported their male counterparts telling them they should leave the service as in their view, it should be a male-only job.

The review was commissioned by former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal, following the suicide of 21-year-old trainee firefighter Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit in August 2020. An inquest heard that Jaden was bullied by colleagues due to his ethnicity; he was regularly taunted over the Caribbean food he ate, and his 16 requests to transfer to a different station were all ignored.

Afzal commented that ‘Jaden’s position was not unique…we have spoken to other [firefighters who are] harbouring suicidal thoughts.’ He adds that this report, as a legacy for Jaden, should be the ‘starting point to end the toxic culture.’

Amongst the 21 recommendations for improvement, the introduction of firefighters wearing body cameras is recommended, as well as a thorough review of all bullying, racism and misogyny complaints made within the past five years. Mayor Sadiq Kahn commented the report should be a ‘watershed moment’ for LFB.

In response to the report, the LFB confirmed they are taking immediate action to pilot body-cameras and create an external complaints service; a leadership re-structure will also follow.

When asked if he agreed with the report’s findings of institutional racism and misogyny, fire commissioner Andy Roe told BBC Radio 4 that ‘when 2000 of your staff have written that story…you can’t deny any of it. I accept the report in full and [its] recommendations. There will be change and the change starts now.’

In recognising that trust in LFB has been jeopardised by the report, Roe urged the public to not be dissuaded from seeking their help in a fire emergency.