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Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Mayor Garcetti stops 'fatally flawed' recruitment of LA firefighters (updated)

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Mayor Eric Garcetti halted the Los Angeles Fire Department's recruitment process Thursday after discovering a member of the department held workshops for potential applicants with ties to the department.

The department started a class of about 70 recruits in January. The mayor's announcement means the class scheduled for June will not convene. Instead, the mayor will bring in the RAND Corporation to conduct a three-month assessment of the fire department's hiring process. RAND will then spend a year improving the department's new process. 

"I have determined that the fire department's recruiting process is fatally flawed," Garcetti said in a  statement. "Reforming the fire department is a key part of my back to basics agenda, and the integrity of its recruiting process is vital to ensuring the department responds quickly, is technologically advanced, and reflects the city it serves in the future." 

This year was the first time since 2008 that L.A.'s fire department had the resources to hire firefighters. But the process has been bumpy ever since the Fire Academy class began in January. The Los Angeles Times reported that 60 percent of the 70 recruits were white — and included just one woman. It was then reported that 20 percent of those recruits were related to a member of the department. 

That left interim fire Chief Jim Featherstone responding to allegations of nepotism.

"What we need to do though is make sure the opportunity exists for all people to become Los Angeles city firefighters," Featherstone told reporters two weeks ago. 

The LAFD Professional Standards Division is looking into the interview and résumé workshops that were organized for the LAFD Cadet Program and family members of department firefighters. The workshops were publicized using an LAFD email account. 

"While these actions may have been conceived in good faith, the result was a recruiting and hiring process that was less than fair and impartial," Featherstone said in a statement.

The president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City welcomed a review of the hiring process but urged the city to continue hiring so the fire department's ranks don't shrink more than they already have. 

"Due to real or perceived problems with the June recruiting class - a class that was selected, interviewed, and processed by the city's Personnel Department - the people who will suffer are our overworked firefighters and the Angelenos who call 911 and depend on us for service," Frank Lima said in a statement. 

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