UK police are investigating after some male firefighters were accused of sharing photos of women killed in car crashes on WhatsApp
Police are investigating after claims that some male firefighters have shared photos of dead women.
Comments about the type of underwear the women were wearing in the car crash were also included.
Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service have launched an inquiry into the reports.
UK police are investigating claims that firefighters from the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire Service, in southern England, have taken and shared photos of women who have tragically died in car crashes.
A whistleblower told ITV News that male firefighters had a WhatsApp group where they shared photos of car-crash victims and even made degrading comments about them.
The source told the news channel, "I've seen people make comments about the type of underwear the women are wearing in the car crash."
She added that "retrieving the body of someone dead should tear you apart, not make you want to take photos of it just to joke about it later."
All too familiar
Dorset police have launched an inquiry into the reports and appealed for more information.
"The limited details available in the news report are of a very concerning nature but will have understandably caused concern amongst the public and especially families of victims. We share that concern and will robustly investigate any information or evidence that is shared with us," a Dorset police spokesperson said, per the Swindon Advertiser.
Rea Prouska, a professor of human-resource management at London South Bank University who worked on a report about the toxic culture within the London Fire Brigade, told Insider that these stories may be shocking, but are no longer surprising.
"There were mentions of female firefighters saying that their male colleagues, when they went to check houses for fires, would go into drawers and take pictures of vibrators or underwear," Prouska told Insider. "They would make fun of what these women — members of the public — had in their home."
But sexism within the fire brigade doesn't just impact the members of the public, but female firefighters as well.
"There were horrific stories of female firefighters where they found urine in their helmets," Prouska said of the report.
She sent Insider two terrifying accounts from female firefighters in London that were supplied to the Independent Cultural Review of the London Fire Brigade.
One firefighter said that it's normal to face some harsh initiation into the force, but it's much harder as a woman.
"You're told you only got the job because you're a woman," the woman said. "That you're there just to fill a quota and you're useless. Then they drive over your shoes, throw your kit in the bin, and grope you on hoist training."
Another woman wrote that she "still has flashbacks of senior staff members humiliating me. Nothing prepares you for London Fire Brigade. They make you feel so worthless and small."
She endured harassment and abuse at her fire station, where her progress was ignored, and she was physically assaulted a number of times, she said. She thought her life and career would improve when she asked to transfer stations, but it did not.
"One firefighter in particular used to watch videos on his phone of him having sex with women," she wrote. "I ignored it for a long time and then finally had a chat with my sub-officer. This man knew my mobile number, and I used to get anonymous video calls from a man with an erection saying to me, 'You want this, don't you,' calling me by my name. This happened many times, and my husband witnessed it."
Prouska said that organizations like the fire service and the police are "very hierarchical organizations" and "attract people that are prone to like to use power."
A lack of funding in human resources and people management has led to improper vetting processes, a lack of qualifications and training in the HR division, and a reduction in the enforcement of company-wide values and a positive culture, she said.
Prouska predicted that with news stories now highlighting the poor workplace environment within England's fire service, a "Me Too movement" could emerge.
A toxic family
Prouska said the UK fire service resembled "a family."
"It's a weird culture, and then you don't see that in many other organizations. Once you are assigned to a fire station, you're part of that fire station for years, and the team pretty much remains the same," she said.
Prouska also pointed out that many fire services across the country are great places to work and are performing well.
The news of firemen sending photos of deceased women comes after a widely reported 2020 incident at London's Metropolitan Police, where two officers were jailed over sharing photos of the murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who were stabbed to death in a London park.
And the problem extends far beyond sending inappropriate photos. Earlier this year, David Carrick, a London police officer, pleaded guilty to 49 counts of rape and sexual assault, admitting to 71 instances of serious sexual offending. In 2021, another London police officer, Wayne Couzens, was sentenced to life in prison after the kidnap, rape, and murder of Sarah Everard
A spokesperson from HMICFRS, the independent body that assesses complaints and conduct within the UK fire and police services, said that they are "deeply concerned by these allegations" from Dorset and Wiltshire.
"We are in contact with Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service to ensure this is investigated thoroughly, and we will be closely monitoring the outcome of the service's independent review," the spokesperson said.
Read the original article on Insider