The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) needs major changes, including its hiring practices, response system and its ability to recover “accountability, engagement, and community presence.”
The way staff is hired, for example, is a problem running counter to efforts to make this metropolitan agency a better demographic reflection of the city. The last time 70 positions opened up in the LAFD, thousands of qualified candidates applied and were rejected because their applications arrived one minute late. Ultimately, in the final selection of candidates, 20% of them had relatives in the department, giving the impression that nepotism still plays a role over other more relevant considerations for the job to be done.
At the same time, a private report, commissioned by the City Council, pointed out the need to make changes in the 911 system, both in terms of responding to calls and in consolidating its call center with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Interim Fire Chief James Featherstone is entrusted with addressing the department’s “cultural aversion to change” and poor communications with the public, aspects highlighted by the report. His successor will certainly be responsible for adopting technological advances that remain to be implemented.
The fire department and its paramedics provide a key service that, depending on response time and procedures, can mean the difference between life and death. Changes must be made so it can fulfill its vital mission.