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Report: Los Angeles Fire Department needs strategic plan, new leadership structure (updated)

A report from PA Consulting says the Los Angeles Fire Department needs a strategic plan and new leadership structure.
A report from PA Consulting says the Los Angeles Fire Department needs a strategic plan and new leadership structure.

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An independent assessment of the Los Angeles Fire Department finds a new leadership structure and a strategic plan for operations could make LAFD more efficient while simultaneously rebuilding the public's confidence. The full report can be read below. 

The analysis from PA Consulting comes as the LAFD is grappling with criticism over its hiring process. In January, the department hired its first class of recruits in five years, but the Los Angeles Times found 20 percent of those recruits were either the sons or nephews of L.A. firefighters. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti's office called for an investigation into the recruitment process. Interim Chief Jim Featherstone also reassigned two commanders after he found they oversaw a recruitment process that allowed their own sons to advance while thousands of other applicants were eliminated. The criteria: the applicants did not turn in paperwork during a 60-second window, according to the Times. 

Related: LA Fire Department seeks women for first new firefighter hires in 5 years (Photos)

The embarrassing episode followed the discovery that LAFD employees receive, on average, $43,000 a year in overtime, according to the city's controller's office. 

"Driven by a series of negative events in recent years the public’s perception is that LAFD is not  effectively and efficiently managed," according to the PA Consulting report. "Despite this there is still an enormous amount of goodwill and the  public generally trusts its Fire Department. This trust should be more fully leveraged to reduce community risk and restore confidence."

One recommendation from PA Consulting is to commit fire chiefs to five-year contracts. Fire chiefs serve at the pleasure of the mayor and as a result, LAFD has had four chiefs in six years. The report also suggests the department assign a deputy chief to oversee paramedics and medical calls, which account for 85 percent of LAFD's work. Other jobs that do not involve fighting fires or providing medical assistance could be given to civilians to save money. 

"LAFD’s culture relies heavily on sworn personnel even where a civilian with the required technical skills would be more effective," according to the report.

LAFD has seen its ranks shrink by 726 firefighters since July 2008, according to the department. PA Consulting also noted the LAFD budget dropped 16 percent between 2009 and 2012.

On Monday, a mayoral spokesman said he is addressing the issue.

"Mayor Garcetti has brought new management and accountability to the department to reduce response times, increase technology and change its culture," said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for the mayor. "Mayor Garcetti will look at this report and see what would support his reform agenda." 

In a statement, the interim fire chief said he's already started the process of hiring a chief technology officer and examining what it would take to carve up the city into bureaus.

"I am committed to enacting meaningful and effective changes to the structure and operations of the Los Angeles Fire Department, in order to continue providing the highest quality emergency medical and fire protection services to the citizens we serve," Featherstone said. 

The report will be considered by the Public Safety Committee.