- LOS ANGELES (KABC), The Los Angeles Fire Department announced its first diversity, equity, and inclusion bureau. This is in an effort to change a culture that has been notoriously hostile towards firefighters based on their gender or race.
When it launches in January, its DEI bureau will be composed of three members. The Chief Equity Officer, Deputy Chief Stephan Gutierrez will lead it. It marks one year since Kristin Crowley was appointed as its first female fire chief.
Crowley stated, “By creating the new bureau, it actually has the staff to do work when it comes down to doing a deep diving in regard to how and do business and how we take care each other in fire stations and at work,”
This will be done by providing training and enforcing responsibility.
For years, calls for accountability have been heard. Women’s advocacy groups, such as the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, demanded changes at the highest levels in 2021. Kris Larson, president of LAWFS at the time, stated that there had been an abject failure to address rampant racism within the department.
Crowley’s appointment changed the leadership, and Larson supports Crowley’s new DEI initiative. Eric Garcetti, the outgoing Los Angeles mayor, acknowledges the challenges ahead. His successor, Karen Bass, is confident he shares the same vision.
Garcetti stated that “we have a lot of work to do in order to reach our goals of trying double the number women in our department.” “Latino firefighters (also) have faced discrimination (as have gay and lesbian LGBTQ firefighters who often feel unwelcomed or have to live in the shadows.”
Chief Crowley is a lesbian.
Crowley said that it took her a while to share her sexuality with coworkers. “I wasn’t sure. This was when I was just starting out on my job. My personal life was very important to me.”
Although she didn’t experience the same hostility as firefighters, she is not the majority. A survey was conducted across the LAFD to find out about the lives of those who work in the department. Most of the feedback received was negative.
Crowley stated, “So that in itself that study was the big catalyst needed to ensure we paid attention to our members’ lived experience and then create strategies moving forward to, well, how can we improve this?”
In phases, the DEI bureau will be launched. The bureau will initially have three employees, but the LAFD plans to increase that number to eight in the next fiscal year.