Leen Schaap's job was never going to be easy.
Just about two years ago, he was named Amsterdam's fire chief. Schaap, a former police officer, had been brought on to tackle the department's white male culture. At the time, then-Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said the department offered a “closed culture in which racism, discrimination and bullying take place.” As Het Parool reported, the mayor believed the brigade was “great at extinguishing fires, but the general culture is rotten.”
In his efforts to make improvements, Schaap criticized the department publicly. When a dildo was left in the desk drawer of a female administrator, Schaap called it a #MeToo moment. (In response to his reprimand, one firefighter said, flippantly, “fire is worse.") When another fighter was caught frequently talking about “cancer Moroccans” and “black monkeys,” he was suspended. He also fired firefighters who displayed “discriminatory and racist” behavior. (At least one successfully sued to get his job back.)
The firefighters did not like that Schaap spoke publicly about the problems in the department and how it impacted the women and people of color he was trying to recruit. In a letter to the Amsterdam city council, Mayor van der Laan acknowledged a group of “old garde” firefighters were stymieing Schaap's efforts at every turn.
They resented Schaap for calling out what he said was a culture of silence, where colleagues would protect each other. And he pushed to change the work requirements. Some firefighters worked just 90 days a year, allowing them to hold second and third jobs. He hired a firm to do an audit of the department, which found nearly $4.7 million had been paid out illegally to firefighters and other staff members in the form of early retirement and other illegal payouts.
These accusations did not sit well with the firefighters' unions, which have called for investigations into Schaap.
Now, he is receiving death threats from his own employees. According to a report in the Amsterdam Daily, Schaap received one threat in February and another in March. Some members of his squad raised money to hire a hit man to strike him with a car. In another incident, a biker gang threatened him with violence. The Netherland Times reports several firefighters have been interviewed in conjunction with the threats.
Schaap has not spoken publicly about the recent report. But when asked about the hostility last May, he told reporters: “I'm not a baby and I'm pretty used to it in the police. This affects me but doesn't infect me.”