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The City Will Review Allegations from Women at the Boston Fire Department

Women firefighters blew the whistle on a culture of discrimination and abuse at the BFD.

Photo via iStock.com/Nickbeer

In what could be another reckoning of the #MeToo movement, the city is launching an investigation into allegations from women that they were mistreated and abused while serving as firefighters in the Boston Fire Department.

The allegations first emerged in a story published over the weekend in the Boston Globe, in which current and former firefighters painted a picture of a department where women—who are in the extreme minority on the force—did not feel welcome and were, in one high-profile case, assaulted.

Mayor Marty Walsh announced over the weekend that the city would hire an outside counsel, Kay Hodge of Stoneman, Chandler & Miller, to review the situation. “Everyone should feel safe coming to work,’’ Walsh said in a statement reported by the Globe. “As soon as I learned of these concerns, I asked for outside counsel to take a look at the Boston Fire Department to ensure that we are taking the necessary steps to support an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.”

Hodge also led a review of sexual harassment allegations against City Hall health official Felix G. Arroyo, who was fired after the investigation.

Alleged mistreatment at the department came to light after an assault was reported inside a Jamaica Plain firehouse in January. 37-year-old Boston firefighter David Sanchez has been arraigned on assault charges and placed on leave.

Many of the 16 women who work at the Boston Fire Department said officials did not properly handle allegations of misconduct, and did not adequately address an environment where they felt demeaned and ostracized by their male peers. Their situation is made especially difficult by the fact that firefighters work, live, and sleep near one another for long stretches of time.

This marks yet another time local reporting has spurred a high-profile review of public officials. Earlier this month, former Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg resigned after an investigation into his conduct and that of his estranged husband Bryon Hefner, who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment. The Senate launched an internal investigation after a Globe report published allegations from several men who said they had been victimized by Hefner.