L.A. Fire Dept. Applications Top 10,000

By City News Services

More than 10,000 applicants are vying for 165 firefighter positions with the Los Angeles Fire Department, officials said Monday, following an overhaul of the agency’s recruitment process, which has been the subject of complaints of nepotism and poor planning.

Women made up at least 528, or 5.19 percent, of the applicants, according to city personnel figures showing the gender and ethnic demographics of the 10,180 aspiring firefighters who applied during a three-day window last week.

Of the applicants, 10.39 percent identified as black, 35.30 percent as Latino, 4.72 percent as Asian, 37.71 percent as white, 1.5 percent as Native American and 2.4 percent as Filipino.

Those who elected not to report their ethnicity made up 7.98 percent of the applicants, which translates to about 812 people. Applicants who chose not to disclose their gender made up 328 of the applicants, or 3.22 percent.

Last year, the department was flooded with applications, with more than 13,000 people looking to fill just a few openings.

City personnel officials asked the 6,000 applicants who passed the written test to submit paperwork on a “first-come-first-serve” basis to help reduce the applicant pool, only to draw complaints when the submission window closed after just one minute, with the target of 900 applicants already reached.

The city is using a lottery process to winnow down the 10,180 who applied in the latest round to 300 candidates who will move onto the next recruitment stage, which includes interviews with personnel and fire officials.

The reduced pool would mirror the demographics of the larger group of 10,180 applicants.

The lottery was created after Mayor Eric Garcetti halted recruitment earlier this year amid mounting complaints about the hiring process, describing it as “fatally flawed” and citing concerns over possible nepotism and favoritism.

Many of the new firefighters who joined the department this year are related to fire department employees. At least 15 of the 58 firefighters who graduated in June have “direct ties to the department,” Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said.

The original group of 70 recruits contained 13 sons and three nephews of firefighters, fire department figures said.

The concerns about nepotism prompted an internal investigation into whether friends and relatives of city firefighters received extra help in the recruitment process, according to Sanders.

In addition to the investigation, the fire department’s hiring process is undergoing the scrutiny of the Fire Commission’s independent watchdog Sue Stengal, who is expected to present her findings at the next board meeting, likely to be held next week, according to Sanders.

Garcetti’s office has also ordered a $270,000 RAND Corp. study to look into ways of revamping the hiring process. The report was scheduled to be completed by the end of this month and presented in August.

Garcetti had wanted the study to be completed before hiring again, but mayoral spokeswoman Vicki Curry said they are moving forward without the report, while basing the process on “informal conversations” with the Rand consultants.

 

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July 31, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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