The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been subjected to special measures by a watchdog after an investigation found the firefighters are ‘institutionally misogynistic and racist’.
LFB will now face an “enhanced level of monitoring” from inspectors, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services.
It comes after a independent review published last month found that LFB has a “toxic culture that allows for bullying and abuse”.
The review found that firefighters have “dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women,” while their colleagues from minority backgrounds are “frequently the target of racially abused people.”
A black firefighter had a noose placed over his locker while a female firefighter said she had advised her friends not to let male firefighters into her home to check fire alarms because they “go through drawers of women looking for underwear and sex toys”.
In another incident, a Muslim man had bacon and sausages placed in his coat pockets and a terrorist hotline sign posted on his locker.
The watchdog said the LFB was placed under special measures “because there is cumulative evidence since its last inspection and subsequently of unacceptable behavior within the brigade, including discrimination and bullying.
“This was flagged as a cause for concern by the inspectorate in July this year.”
The values and behaviors to which the brigade “aspires are not always demonstrated by senior leaders, and the brigade must do more to demonstrate progress in improving its culture,” the inspectorate added.
The watchdog continuously monitors the performance of firefighters in England and Wales, placing brigades on special measures – also known as the ‘engagement’ process – when concerns arise from its inspections.
Fire and Rescue Services Inspector Matt Parr said putting the brigade on special measures “provides further scrutiny of the brigade’s plans and support for them from across the fire sector”.
“We will now review the London Fire Brigade’s improvement plans more frequently and more intrusively and work closely with the fire brigade to monitor their progress.”
He added: ‘We should recognize that the recent London Fire Brigade Cultural Review was commissioned by the Brigade, whose leadership accepted its findings without reservation.
“However, it is clear that the behavioral issues we highlighted earlier this year are entrenched and have not improved.”
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London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe said: “I recognized that the culture of LFB needed to improve which is why I commissioned the independent culture review and took immediate action when it was published last month.
“Our external complaints service supports colleagues and a zero tolerance approach to discrimination, harassment and bullying means that all staff know what behavior is not tolerated.
“Change is happening now and the face-to-face meetings I’ve had with firefighters and other staff members show that there is a passion for making sure our culture works for everyone.
“We welcome the additional support as part of the Inspectorate’s enhanced monitoring program and look forward to working with them and other partners to monitor progress and changes in the future.”