CLAIMS firefighters photographed women who had died in car crashes and shared them in a WhatsApp group are to be investigated by police.
The allegations were made by a Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) firefighter to ITV News, who said she had heard derogatory comments made by colleagues regarding the victims.
DWFRS said it was taking the ‘deeply concerning’ claims seriously and was giving all female staff the chance to speak to an independent organisation.
Meanwhile Dorset Police said it had not yet received any information regarding the claims, and urged anyone with information to come forward.
Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell, of DWFRS, said: “The matters that have been raised with us are deeply concerning and we take allegations of this nature extremely seriously.
“As allegations of criminal behaviour are involved, we have immediately alerted the police so the appropriate action can be taken.
“I am also commissioning an independent investigation. As part of this investigation, I will be providing all of our female staff with the opportunity to speak to an independent organisation. It is vital to have their help in identifying any inappropriate behaviour – in a modern fire and rescue service there is absolutely no place for it.
“In addition, we have set up a confidential helpline so if any of our staff have immediate issues as a result of these allegations, the right support is in place.
“There is an expectation for our staff to work in line with our code of ethics which sets out high levels of expected behaviours. The vast majority of our staff are good people, working hard and doing a great job. But when and if those standards are not met, we will move quickly to address it.
“Where people do come forward with concerns, we conduct thorough investigations in accordance with our disciplinary procedures.
“We are unable to comment on individual cases, but what we can say is that we continue to work to ensure that our organisation is a safe place, where staff feel able to report concerns of inappropriate conduct or behaviour.
“We are extremely shocked and appalled to hear about these allegations. We would ask that any individuals affected, provide us with further information to allow us to investigate these allegations and to enable us to offer our support to them.”
Dorset Police said: “Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service made Dorset Police and Wiltshire Police aware of the ITV investigation.
“The limited details available in the news report are of a very concerning nature but will have understandably caused concern among the public and especially families of victims.
“We share that concern and will robustly investigate any information or evidence that is shared with us.
“Following liaison between Wiltshire Police and Dorset Police, it has been decided that Dorset will take the lead in the enquiries.
“Unfortunately, neither force has so far been provided with any specific details as to the precise allegations. ITV has been approached to disclose any information it has regarding these allegations, which could potentially be used as evidence, but it has yet to do so.
“We would urge anyone who has any details regarding the matter to contact Dorset Police.”
Anyone with information should contact Dorset Police via www.dorset.police.uk/contact or by calling 101, quoting Operation Pine.
Crimestoppers can also be contacted anonymously online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling Freephone 0800 555 111.