Woman battalion chief on changing Fairfax Fire culture

Women battalion chief on changing Fairfax Fire culture

FAIRFAX, VA (WUSA9) - How deep is a culture of discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying inside the Fairfax County fire department?

One of the top women leaders in the department is speaking out in this exclusive interview with WUSA9's Peggy Fox.

"It is the first time in my career that I can say we're honestly putting forth a very strong effort to change it," said Kathleen Stanley, one of the three women battalion chiefs, the highest-ranking women in the Fairfax County Fire Department. All three have sued the department for discrimination in years past.

RELATED: Nicole Mittendorff's mom wants firefighter 'culture' changed after reading letter

Now, after 26 years in that apartment, Stanley says the old ways are finally changing.

"Yes, there are some still pockets of the old school around...On the negative side," pockets of people who don't buy into it what we are selling," she said.

She compares the problem to cancer that divides and grows, but a cancer that needs treatment order to be cured.

Last year, after paramedic Nicole MIttendorff committed suicide after she was bullied on line, it was discovered that Guy Morgan, the department's Internal Affairs Investigator who was in charge of handling workplace behavior complaints, had sexually offensive postings all over his Facebook page.

It was Kathleen Stanley who brought Morganl's social media persona to the Chief's attention and Morgan was forced out.

Stanley said the women did not know who to go to prior to her stepping back into the job of Women's Program Coordinator.

RELATED: Fire chief: Dept. unaware of cyberbullying against Nicole Mittendorff

Last month a parent of a fire recruit  wrote an angry letter to the chief about what a captain said that seem to condone bullying and "boys will be boys" type of behavior.

"He did not mean to condone bullying," said Stanley who knows the captain and says he's one of the leaders working to change the old behavior. She said he was just trying to prepare the parents for the first year which involves l unpleasant tasks such as cleaning toilets.

She says they're working hard training people training people about behavior from the start.

"If we nip it I the bud, it's easy to change," it's family is not sure how long that will take.

She also helped start up a mentor program for this year's recruit class to help them get through their first difficult  year.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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