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Sunday, November 27, 2022

It's the culture

The Sunday Times continues it exposé of abuse in our public services today, with a story reporting on the he head of the country’s biggest fire brigade, Andy Roe, who says he expects to sack staff after a damning report concluded the London Fire Brigade was “institutionally misogynistic and racist”.

As worrying as the allegations in London, later on in the article Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor in the Rochdale grooming case, is quoted as saying he has received messages from women and ethnic-minority staff at the BBC, the NHS and many police forces:

Afzal was asked to carry out a review after the suicide of a black trainee firefighter, Jaden Francois-Esprit, 21. He spent months speaking to people inside the brigade and elsewhere. A high-profile BBC TV presenter was among those to get in touch, Afzal said. He called for a “national inquiry” into other public bodies and said he hopes the “floodgates” had opened.

“I ask anyone who’s rushing to judgment on London Fire Brigade to look in the mirror and look at themselves because they will see similar things happening,” he said.

The Independent Culture Review of London Fire Brigade contains scores of examples of staff members who said they had been victims of violence, racism or sexism. A Muslim firefighter found a terrorism hotline sticker near his belongings. When he returned from a pilgrimage, colleagues asked how his “al-Qaeda training” had gone.

The stories prompted outsiders to demand investigations of their own. People from “five police forces, the NHS and the BBC” had all contacted him.

He declined to specify which forces but said: “They were talking about racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual assault ... pretty much everything in my report seemed to resonate.” At the BBC two members of staff and a TV presenter had sent messages, he said.

Afzal said that within the NHS “senior people of colour” had shared examples of racism.

Many of those who had been in touch had “no confidence” in their own institution to help them and were asking how to get similar inquiries opened elsewhere.

His call for a national inquiry into misogyny and racism within all public institutions has a lot of merit.
The Afzal report has come out at a time when there is a newspaper campaign alleging racism and misogyny in Gwent police. At best, this is an unfortunate coincidence.

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