LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — On Tuesday, a day after the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service called for the removal of Chief Ralph Terrazas, Los Angeles Fire commissioner Rebecca Ninburg penned a letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti joining the call for Terrazas' resignation for allegedly allowing a culture of sexism, harassment and abuse to spread throughout the department.
"I have seen firsthand how Chief Terrazas has refused to take action against the ever-growing culture of racism, sexism, retaliation, and abuse in the Department," Ninburg wrote in her letter. "Urgency is required at this moment to create a safe environment for all LAFD firefighters — without which this Department has been allowed to enable dangerous behavior time and again."
Ninburg joined the ever-growing coalition urging Terrazas to resign. The coalition is comprised of organizations such as the Women's March Action, Equity on Fire, California Ntional Organization of Women and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California as well as minority firefighters.
"Culture starts at the top and leaders set the tone," wrote Ninburg. "The Chief's apathy, indifference, and dismissal of claims of discrimination and abuse from the female and African American firefighters under his command have only emboldened the misogynists and racists who terrorize their fellow firefighters with impunity."
The group alleged harassment such as feces spread around the women's restroom and male firefighters exposing themselves while saying "this is what a fireman looks like" to racial objects found inside the fire station. The racist and sexist comments sometimes escalated to physical violence.
"Our leadership's apathy, dismissiveness, inaction, has allowed a bullying culture to grow and develop within the department with disastrous results," said LAWFS President Kris Larson. "Those who are courageous enough to file complaints are faced with retaliation, hazing and retribution at their assignment."
Larson, a 31-year veteran with Los Angeles Fire Department, alleged Terrazas brushed off the reports of abuse and harassment as "one-offs or pockets."
Terrazas has met with the LAWFS last Thursday to discuss the allegations and solutions.
"I respect the LAWFS and all our other fire service organizations and will continue to have open communication and meetings to move forward together," said Terrazas.
The Acting Public Information Director Cheryl Getuiza also addressed the accusations in a statement. She claimed LAFD "takes all complaints seriously and investigates them upon notification."
"Furthermore, the Chief does not ignore any incidents of misconduct and encourages Department members to report all allegations of inappropriate behavior," she added.
Terrazas and LAFD received the support of Garcetti.
"Chief Terrazas has done an excellent job leading and rebuilding our fire department during some of our toughest days ever and I have full confidence in him," Garcetti said. He and the entire LAFD leadership know that I have zero tolerance for sexism, racism, or harassment in our firehouses or any other workplace --- and I expect them to act with urgency when any allegations of abuse are brought to their attention."
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)
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