Offenders Should Be Penalized

Firefighters have one of the most attractive jobs: their duties are risky; people look up to them; and they enjoy a good salary, generous benefits and an excellent pension. This valued civil servant position should be available to highly-qualified and to well-prepared people. However, in the Los Angeles Fire Department, nepotism has tainted the process.

A recent report from the county’s Auditor-Controller Department confirmed and broadened the findings first published by the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper revealed how, for years, the LAFD cheated when hiring new personnel, favoring relatives and friends of current firefighters.

The auditor pointed out that, between 2007 and 2011, a battalion leader, 10 captains and 6 firefighters gave prospective firefighters the questions and answers included in the oral interview.

The high rank of some of these individuals makes their actions even worse. It is hard to ignore the destructive impact of their deeds in the integrity and fairness of the hiring process.

The audit also reported that, of the 701 people hired in 2007, 15% were relatives of firefighters, while 95% of the applicants were turned down.

The result of this nepotism is a fire department with a low percentage of minority and female members.

The report confirmed, in case there were still doubts, the magnitude of the challenge LAFD Chief Daryl Osby faces. The explanation he gave the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors about changes made to the recruiting process and application tests is insufficient.

Behind the figures, there are public employees who abused their authority and knowledge to their own gain. When they helped out an acquaintance, they took the opportunity away from the general public to participate in a fair selection of firefighters – not to mention the candidate who was left out because a firefighter’s relative was chosen instead of her or him.

An appropriate penalty is one of the steps that are necessary to change an overly permissive culture of nepotism and favoritism