Women, minority firefighters call for removal of LAFD chief for failure to address sexism, racism

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles female firefighters are calling for change within the Los Angeles City Fire Department at its highest level.

Kris Larson, president of the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, says her organization stands in solidarity with their colleagues to report that there has been "abject failure" of leadership to address rampant racism and sexism within the department.

Larson is one of many demanding action to address the "untenable and unsafe" work environment experienced by women and minority firefighters.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, Women's March Action and California National Organization of Women have joined forces with the LAWFS to root out what they say is a system within the department that exposes them to abuse, bullying, and a culture of intimidation and retaliation.

The groups are placing their primary focus on Chief Ralph Terrazas.

"You have to change the culture before the organization gets better, and since the chief is unwilling to change the culture, it's time for the chief to go," Larson said at a news conference.

LAFD firefighter and LAWFS member Jennifer Wilcox said rampant racism, sexism, harassment and abuse "continue to occur in a culture that has perpetuated this behavior year after year."

The 17-year veteran with the department says the abuse must stop.

"This is not just a female issue or a minority issue. These are human rights issues and under the leadership of Ralph Terrazas, human rights issues have taken a backseat."

In a statement, Terrazas said he met with the LAWFS and discussed collaborative initiatives to protect and enhance the department's work environments.

"They included reviewing and updating the Department's Disciplinary Penalty Guidelines, increasing the frequency of Department-wide messaging, and providing specific training to create positive work experiences," the statement read.

The groups are now calling on Mayor Eric Garcetti to take action and make the changes they are demanding.

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