Homophobia, racism and misogyny rife in England’s fire services, report finds

Fire services in England

A quarter of fire services in England have seen staff report allegations of homophobia, racism and misogyny, according to a recent report.

Inspectors at His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that 25 per cent of fire and rescue services in England have received allegations of racial slurs and threats of rape.

The report, released on Thursday (30 March) and titled ‘Values and culture in fire and rescue services’, warns that this could be the “tip of an iceberg”.

After surveying 44 different services across the region, 11 found accusations of bigoted rhetoric.

These include the casual use of racial slurs, threats by two firefighters who told a female colleague they were going to “rape her”, and unjust dismissal of other serious allegations.

Those who made complaints also reported serious threats of violence by other colleagues, with one senior officer saying of a colleague who complained that he would “make his life hell”.

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Two firefighters entering a building.
A quarter of Fire and Rescue services have received reports of homophobia, racism, and misogyny. (Getty)

In response, inspectors made several recommendations to help mitigate the volume of hateful rhetoric coming from fire and rescue services staff.

“The findings from our most recent inspections have shown that a great deal more work is needed to improve values and culture,” the report read.

“The recommendations in this report are designed to guide the relevant individuals and organisations in the right direction, but they are the minimum of work that we expect those involved to carry out.”

The 35 recommendations involve creating an environment in which staff feel comfortable reporting bigoted rhetoric and conducting background checks to help reduce the likelihood of these instances occurring.

It also ordered chief fire officers to review the core code of ethics and “make sure it is being applied across their services”.

Inspector Roy Wilsher told the BBC that the “trust and respect” typically afforded to firefighters has been “replaced with derogatory, bullying behaviour”.

He added that this behaviour, which is typically seen as “banter”, is a relic of the past and that it is “time for this behaviour to stop”.

Additionally, the government said the state of fire and rescue services in the region was “deeply concerning”.

Met Police also found to be institutionally homophobic

The findings follow a similar report on the Met Police that found the force to be bigoted towards marginalised groups.

A review by Baroness Casey found that the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist, homophobic and misogynistic.

It reported that 19 per cent of all lesbian, gay or bisexual Met officers have directly experienced discrimination, with 14 per cent saying it happens every week.

They said that allegations included being asked if they were “up for threesomes”, being told gay sex was “disgusting” and female colleagues being asked “who’s the man in the bedroom?”

In a statement, Baroness Casey said the Met Police “needs to recognise that its failings go well beyond the actions of ‘bad apple’ officers”.

“The way in which the Met has responded to them is also a symptom of a wider malaise in an organisation that has fundamentally lost its way.”