Audit: Portland Fire & Rescue lacks inclusivity, accountability in workplace

A new audit shows Portland Fire & Rescue needs to do more to provide a more professional and inclusive workplace.
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:26 AM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - A new audit shows Portland Fire & Rescue needs to do more to provide a more professional and inclusive workplace.

More than 700 people work for the fire bureau, and as of last year, 89% were men and 79% were white. There are more than 30 fire stations around Portland and small teams of firefighters work at each of them, carrying out 24-hour shifts every third day. Those firefighters don’t just work together - they eat, sleep, and socialize as a unit.

In the audit released by the city of Portland Wednesday morning, some employees described their workplace as a family. But the tight-knit culture left some - like women and people of color - feeling alienated.

The audit found the tight-knit environment can foster unprofessional behavior, like offensive jokes and comments. In fact, 43% of investigations into fire bureau employees between 2018 and 2020 involved allegations of unprofessional behavior.

The audit offered six recommendations for the fire bureau:

  • Setting clear expectations for work requirements and employee conduct, and make sure employees are trained to meet those requirements.
  • Offering guidance and tools for filing complaints.
  • Letting managers know what to do it they get a complaint.
  • Documenting and analyzing complaints to identify patterns of risky behavior.
  • Conducting timely and impartial investigations.
  • Imposing fair and prompt discipline for misconduct.

Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone, who is the first African American woman to lead the bureau and has been doing so since 2019, said she generally agrees with the findings of the audit. Though she pointed out that the report relies heavily on a 2018 survey, and that’s why she says some of the findings and recommendations may be based on “stale information.”