London Fire Brigade boss vows to sack racist and sexist firefighters as report finds 'horrifying' prejudice

26 November 2022, 22:47 | Updated: 26 November 2022, 22:59

LFB chief Andy Roe is pictured with Prince William last year
LFB chief Andy Roe is pictured with Prince William last year. Picture: Getty

By Adam Solomons

London's Fire Commissioner has promised he will sack racist and sexist workers after an explosive inquiry uncovered 'dangerous levels of prejudice' within Britain's biggest fire brigade.

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London Fire Brigade (LFB) boss Andy Roe promised to take a "zero tolerance" approach to staff found to have "behaved appallingly".

He said: "Today is a very sobering day. 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 23 recommendations."

The 88-page report led by former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal slammed "dangerous levels of prejudice" among firemen and women.

Examples of bad behaviour included team members' helmets filled with urine, a black firefighter subjected to racist bullying before a mock noose was placed above his locker, and a Muslim fireman taunted with bacon sandwiches.

READ MORE: London Fire Brigade 'institutionally misogynist and racist', independent review finds

One 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."

She said she tells her female friends not to let male firefighters into their homes to check smoke alarms because she says they go through women's drawers looking for underwear and sex toys.

Jaden Francois-Esprit took his own life in August 2020
Jaden Francois-Esprit took his own life in August 2020. Picture: GoFundMe

In his conclusion, Mr Afzal said: "My review found evidence that supports a finding that LFB is institutionally misogynist and racist.

"We found dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women and the barriers faced by people of colour spoke for themselves.

"Not only were they more likely to be subject to disciplinary action, less likely to be promoted and largely unrepresented at senior levels, but they were also frequently the target of racist abuse.

"We also saw examples of how this was driving some people of colour out of the brigade and there was evidence that talented people, committed to public service, were being lost as a result."

The London Fire Brigade boss has vowed to act swiftly
The London Fire Brigade boss has vowed to act swiftly. Picture: Alamy

Mr Afzal compared the findings to similar problems experienced by the Metropolitan Police.

The report, which makes 23 recommendations, is based on the experiences of hundreds of staff members.

The review was established by the London Fire Commissioner Roe after the death of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit, who took his own life in August 2020.

The 88-page report exposed "dangerous levels of prejudice"
The 88-page report exposed "dangerous levels of prejudice". Picture: Alamy

His family were concerned that he had been bullied because of his race, the report said.

Mr Afzal said: "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.

"This review has to be a turning point, not just a talking point. Everyone who works for the emergency services should be afforded dignity at work. That is the very least they are owed."

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