Some members of the Arlington County Fire Department are demanding immediate action to address what they say is “a troubling pattern of misconduct and a culture that jeopardizes our safety and well-being.”
In a letter signed by more than 30 female county fire department members, obtained by WTOP, the women tell county board members and the county manager that they’re dealing with a “culture of silence and indifference from our executive leadership.”
Specifically, they say a memo was ignored about a firefighter who was accused of sexual harassment, and that the firefighter later targeted another person.
They also say a member was sexually assaulted during a yearly physical exam, but that the company involved remains a contractor for the department.
They add that for years, they’ve been getting anonymous emails and text messages, often sexual in nature.
The women claim that formal complaints are often dismissed or not fully investigated.
“The environment within our department has grown increasingly toxic, allowing predatory behaviors and a ‘good ole’ boy system’ to persist,” the letter stated. “We demand immediate action to rectify this situation and restore trust in our leadership. The safety, well-being, and dignity of every member is at stake.”
The letter went on to say: “It is imperative for Arlington County to acknowledge and address these deeply rooted issues swiftly and decisively. The confidence we once held in our department’s leadership has been eroded, and the situation requires urgent attention to safeguard the well-being of all our members.”
In a statement provided to WTOP, a spokesperson said the county takes all allegations of misconduct seriously.
“The Police and Fire Departments have ongoing investigations regarding allegations raised by employees,” the statement said. “Arlington County will continue to work with staff, hear their concerns, and take necessary actions to strengthen the safety and security of our workforce. Employees and volunteers of Arlington County have various avenues to report any concerns, issues, or allegations including the Office of Human Rights. Arlington County appreciates those who have raised concerns and supports those who are affected by the allegations.”
A county fire department spokesperson said Thursday morning the department is working on a response to the claims.
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