London Fire Brigade chief Andy Roe vows to sack bullying firefighters

I will SACK any racist and sexist firefighters, London Fire Brigade chief declares after bombshell report laid bare scale of bullying, racism and misogyny in the service

  • London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe vowed to dismiss any abusive firefighters
  • A review into the London Fire Brigade revealed sexist and racist horror stories
  • Lawyer Nazir Afzal said those in NHS, BBC and police also raised concerns  

The chief of the London Fire Brigade has vowed to sack any ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ firefighters after a bombshell report laid bare the scale of bullying, racism and misogyny in the service. 

Andy Roe said said the findings were ‘horrifying’ and that ‘public confidence and trust’ had been ‘betrayed’.

He said at a press conference: ‘Where we find people have behaved appallingly, we will dismiss them’, promising a zero-tolerance crackdown. 

 It comes after the 70-page LFB review led by lawyer Nazir Afzal revealed ‘stomach-turning’ stories that claim abuse and bullying are normalised in the emergency service.

In one case, a female fire fighter had her helmet filled with urine, while in another example a Muslim firefighter was bullied because of his faith and had bacon put in his sandwich. 

The chief of the London Fire Brigade Andy Roe has vowed to sack any ‘racist’ or ‘sexist’ firefighters after a bombshell report laid bare the scale of bullying, racism and misogyny in the service 

Nazir Afzal, who led the damning report into the toxic culture inside the London Fire Brigade, said employees at the NHS, the BBC and police have also raised ‘serious concerns’ about the way they are treated.

An independent culture review of London Fire Brigade (LFB), led by Afzal – a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West – found ‘dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women’, while colleagues from minority backgrounds are ‘frequently the target of racist abuse’.

Now Mr Afzal has called for a ‘national inquiry’ into other public bodies, saying he has been approached in the past 24 hours by several people who work for them.

Speaking at a briefing at the LFB headquarters in central London on Saturday, he said: ‘There are members of five different police forces who have approached me and said similar concerns about their own forces, I won’t name them.

‘I’ve had approaches, it may shock, from the BBC and I’ve had approaches from the National Health Service.

‘They are pivotal to the British society, these organisations, and yet there are people within them that are seriously concerned about the way they’re being treated within their organisations.

‘I don’t know what to do. The BBC won’t ask me, the NHS won’t ask me. Somebody needs to ask the people who work in these organisations and policing.

‘I can assure you there are 43 police forces with problems and with serious concerns and yet you currently know only about two.

‘There needs to be a national inquiry, particularly in relation to misogyny, because this is a subject that hasn’t had the attention that it deserves.’

Mr Afzal said a national inquiry should focus on misogyny and racism across all sectors.

Lawyer Nazir Afzal, who led a damning report into a toxic culture inside London Fire Brigade said employees at the NHS, the BBC and police have also raised ‘serious concerns’ 

The report revealed ‘stomach-churning’ stories of abuse in the fire service. 

In one case, a female firefighter was left with post-traumatic stress disorder after her helmet was filled with urine.

Other examples of vile behaviour include a black employee finding a noose above his locker and a Muslim firefighter discovering a terrorism hotline sticker near his belongings. 

Another Muslim firefighter, bullied because of his faith, had bacon put in his sandwich by his colleagues. 

The report, seen by The Times, was commissioned after 21-year-old Jaden Francois-Esprit, a trainee at Wembley fire station, took his own life in August 2020.

Over a period of 10 months, a seven-strong team led by Mr Afzal gathered evidence of what people experienced in their working environment and the wider culture that supported this.

The review concluded that the service was institutionally misogynistic and racist.

‘Unless a toxic culture that allows bullying and abuse to be normalised is tackled then I fear that, like Jaden, other firefighters will tragically take their lives,’ Mr Afzalm said. 

In the past five years, six members of the brigade’s staff had taken their own lives.

The report also included harrowing accounts from women, who claimed to have been groped during training exercises.

One said: ‘The threshold for bullying is so high, you would have to gouge someone’s eyes out to get sacked. Everything else is seen as banter.’ 

More than 4,500 of the brigade’s 5,000 staff are firefighters, but just 425 are women and just over 500 are from ethnic minorities. London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said the report was ‘very sobering’.

The 70-page review revealed ‘stomach-turning’ stories of abuse and bullying in the service

He added: ‘There is no place for discrimination, harassment and bullying in the brigade and from today it will be completely clear to all staff what behaviour isn’t acceptable and what the consequences will be.

‘I am deeply sorry for the harm that has been caused. I will be fully accountable for improving our culture and I fully accept all of the report’s 23 recommendations.

‘I want to ensure a safe, modern workplace for the dedicated, public-spirited people at the brigade who, like me, are horrified by what this review has uncovered.’

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