Unacceptable behavior dismissed as ‘jokes’ at some fire stations

The “deeply concerning” findings have “shocked and appalled” Her Majesty’s Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services, Roy Wilsher, who said the sector “needs to be brought into the 21st century”.

The report on the values ​​and culture of the 44 fire and rescue services (FRS) in England documents racist, sexist and homophobic comments and behavior that went unchallenged or dismissed as ‘jokes’.

An example given to inspectors includes a firefighter who reported a superior officer for a racist comment and felt his version of events was called into question.

He was told the alleged offender “would not behave that way” and the superior officer then threatened to “make his life hell,” according to the report.

Inspectors were told of a senior officer referring to a black colleague using the “N-word” and chalking it up to “having fun,” homophobic abuse found written on a firefighter’s locker, and men using women’s and women’s restrooms. They don’t feel safe to challenge this.

Another example was an incident where two firefighters joked with a female firefighter that they were “going to rape her” and the three acted out the rape together.

The report concerned the perception among staff that women are appointed based on their gender rather than merit.

Several people expressed this view, with individual experiences described using inappropriate language, including “if you menstruate or have a vagina, you’re more likely to get the job” and “you have to be a woman to get ahead”.

Inspectors were told about staff not wanting to work in specific areas of the service due to their bad behavior and humiliation of staff during training sessions if they made mistakes.

They also heard that staff were reluctant to speak up or challenge inappropriate behavior because they felt doing so would hurt their prospects, have adverse consequences for them, or result in a “negative mark” on their name and being told it would be a “professional qualification.” . suicide” to do so.

At one service, inspectors overheard station managers making off-the-cuff comments and inappropriate jokes about female and gay staff.

Female staff were expected to make the tea, and bullying from new recruits led to a firefighter on duty having to change stations.

In another service, staff said the culture in general was “toxic” and behaviors on watches were “herd-like.”

Staff told inspectors that on the watches, people did not question the inappropriateness toward race.

“So people lie and stick together in a herd mentality, even though they know it’s wrong, because they’re afraid of being ostracized,” according to a staffer quoted in the report.

The inspectors also found cases where new recruits joined the service with a positive attitude and no apparent disposition to certain behaviors, but soon felt the need to assimilate into the prevailing culture in order to “fit in.”

In several services, the inspectors found a worrying trend of staff not raising concerns if they felt they were not part of an ‘old men’s club’.

They also heard from staff members who felt others could get away with inappropriate behavior, including bullying, harassment and discrimination, “if they know the right people.”

Some staff members of one service described their promotion processes as “feeling corrupt”.

They expressed this frustration after requesting promotions many times, and despite being unsuccessful, received no feedback or support.

They told inspectors: “If your face doesn’t fit you, you won’t get in.”


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