The head of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has vowed to sack firefighters who bullied colleagues or have been racist, misogynistic or homophobic as he vowed to take a zero tolerance approach.
Commissioner Andy Roe’s comments come after a damning independent report revealed the “toxic culture” in the LFB, with accounts ranging from women being groped during training exercises to people having their helmets filled with urine.
The report, which makes 23 recommendations, is based on the experiences of 2,000 staff members and found the LFB was “institutionally misogynist and racist”.
Mr Roe told Sky News he was “horrified”, “heartbroken” and “very disappointed” by the findings, describing the behaviour as “inexcusable”.
He added: “The change has to start now. We will be the first service in the country to introduce body-worn cameras for our own staff safety and to reassure the public.
“We will be conducting a historic five-year case review and where we find people have not met the standards of behaviour we clearly expect in a zero tolerance culture to this stuff, we will dismiss them.”
Mr Roe apologised to Londoners and the “2,000 people who raised their voice”.
The review concluded the capital’s fire service has “dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women”.
They had to run a daily gauntlet of sexist abuse – with many routinely referred to as “woman” or “front bottom” by colleagues.
Other women were even punched and attacked, the report found.
Some men had explicitly said they did not want women on their watch and there were multiple accounts of women being subjected to unwanted sexual attention.
‘Mock noose above locker’
The report also revealed other incidents such as a black firefighter who was subject to racist bullying which culminated in someone putting a mock noose above his locker.
And the review referred to a Muslim firefighter, bullied because of his faith, who had bacon put in his sandwich by his colleagues.
‘I expect to dismiss people’
A female firefighter told the review that the threshold for bullying is so high “you would have to gouge someone’s eyes out to get sacked”, adding: “Everything else is seen as banter.”
But London Fire Commissioner Mr Roe told a briefing at LFB headquarters: “We are going to take a zero tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and discrimination.
“What that means, if we think about the immediate steps, is that I expect to dismiss people as a result of this report.”
Asked how many could lose their jobs, he added: “If we find that you have behaved in a way that is highlighted in this report, there is not a place for you in the London Fire Brigade. In a way the numbers don’t matter to me.”
The review was led by Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West.
He said: “My review found evidence that supports a finding that LFB is institutionally misogynist and racist.”
The report was established in response to the death of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit, who took his own life in August 2020.
His family were concerned that he had been bullied because of his race, the report said.