City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero did not mince words in her audit of PF&R.
Although Chief Sara Boone became the first black woman to lead the bureau in 2019, the audit says firefighters of color, women and those who identify as LGBTQ+ do not make up enough of the bureau’s workforce.
According to the audit, out of the 700 PF&R employees 89% are white and 79% are male as of 2021.
Additionally, the audit says the bureau does not hold its employees as accountable like it should. To maintain accountability and limit problematic behavior the report suggests the bureau develops a system that outlines employee conduct expectations and clear guidance for filing and handling complaints.
The audit references a 2018 study from Portland State University that revealed the work culture at PF&R allows for unprofessional behavior. With firefighters living together, there is reportedly more instances where offensive jokes or comments are made regarding sex, race, gender, sexual orientation and nationality.
Allegations of unprofessional behavior in the bureau accounted for 43% of all investigations between 2018 and 2020, according to auditors.
Chief Boone responded to the audit, saying “my primary issue with the report is that the findings and recommendations are based on stale information and do not take into account the proactive steps we’ve already taken.”
She claims the department was aware of the issues prior to the audit and was working toward creating a Professional Standards Unit that would uphold accountability. Despite this, Boone said she believes the additional funding will help them implement many of the recommendations.
The full audit is posted on the city’s website here, and details the department’s shortcomings and recommendations to improve accountability and diversity.