FIRST ON KXLY: Several Spokane firefighters accused of bullying, harassment

FIRST ON KXLY: Several Spokane firefighters accused of bullying, harassment

Several members of the Spokane Fire Department have been accused of bullying and harassment, related to probationary firefighters at Fire Station 2.

The accusations are detailed in a 40-page report completed by the city’s human resources department.

The allegations were brought to light by a lieutenant within the department, who alleged the pattern of abuse has gone on at Fire Station 2 for the last three to five years.

The lieutenant claims the “culture at Station 2 creates an unhealthy atmosphere for probationary employees and members of Station 2 take pride in bullying probationary employees.”

He claims the several members of the department at that station, located at 1001 E. North Foothills, demean probationary employees with inappropriate and demeaning nicknames and that “members of Station 2 create a hazing type environment and are openly critical of individuals from other stations.”

The city’s human resources department began investigating the claims in February, interviewing 30 people about the allegations. The 40-page report, ending with recommendations going forward, details allegations from many witnesses about what many felt was a pattern of abuse towards probationary employees.

One witness accused members of the department of sexual harassment as well, pointing to sexual comments he would make during workplace conversations. The department members in question denied making rude and off-color comments.

One of the accused even named his fantasy football team “Probie Killers.”

Those in question deny the allegations.

Not every witness questioned described the widespread bullying made by others within the department. Some said working Station 2 was different because it forced you to work harder. One witness called working at Station 2 “a crucible.”

The report ends with a series of recommendations and findings. The human resources department sustained some of the allegations and dismissed others.

The report recommends Loudermill hearings for five members of the departments; Loudermill hearings are held for public employees before their employment is impacted, either by termination, suspension or demotion.

The report also recommends the City of Spokane evaluate current staffing at Station 2 and make any necessary changes and transfers “to ensure a positive work culture for probationary employees.” The report also suggests the city provide additional training about bullying and harassment to all members of the Spokane Fire Department.

The report also suggests the City of Spokane “should engage an independent, third-party consultant with prior public safety experience to perform training or other proactive measures to improve the culture of the organization. It also recommends the City of Spokane periodically survey probationary employees to obtain feedback about the workplace within that probationary year.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said:

“We take these allegations very seriously, that’s why we’ve launched a thorough and complete investigation into the process which has not yet been completed. As a city, we have taken steps to make sure people have multiple ways to report concerns about work place behavior and are comfortable coming forward with those concerns. The actions and behavior outlined in this report will not be tolerated. Any disciplinary actions will be taken once the investigative process is complete.”