The first new class of Los Angeles Fire Department recruits since Mayor Eric Garcetti overhauled the city’s firefighter hiring process this year is half white and nearly all male, according to data released Tuesday evening. One in five is related to an LAFD member.
The numbers show small progress toward the mayor’s goal of introducing more women and minorities at the LAFD, a goal set when the hiring process was halted amid concerns of nepotism and mismanagement.
The new class of 43 firefighters, which began training Monday in Panorama City, includes four women and is 49% white, city data show. Thirty-three percent of the recruits are Latino, 7% are Asian American and 12% are African American, according to the figures. Nine have relatives already in uniform.
"This is a good first step," said Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for the mayor. "Mayor Garcetti is seeking a system that results in a department that better reflects the city and has the best possible firefighters."
In March, the mayor halted an ongoing round of LAFD hiring after The Times reported that thousands of candidates for a class named earlier this year were excluded because their paperwork wasn't received in the first 60 seconds of a filing period. Many applicants said they had no idea mere seconds would determine which candidates would advance.
After the City Council funded three new recruit classes for this fiscal year, Garcetti backed a hasty reboot of the hiring process that introduced a lottery to winnow down more than 10,000 applicants. Lost in the shuffle was a $270,000 study of alternative methods commissioned from outside experts at the Rand Corp. That study has yet to be released.
City officials said they plan to refine and improve the lottery in the future.
"They need to look at how they are recruiting," said Fire Commissioner Jimmie Woods-Gray. "We need to have an abundance of people of color applying so that you have more in the random sampling."
The Fire Department has struggled to overcome a history of racial and sexual discrimination punctuated in recent years by provocative complaints of bias that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal payouts.
Though the rank and file has become more racially diverse in recent decades, about half of the roughly 3,200 uniformed LAFD employees are white in a city that’s half Latino. And despite repeated calls for reform, the percentage of female firefighters remains at slightly less than 3% — the same as in 1995.
“The numbers here reflect a step in the right direction,” said Peter Sanders, an LAFD spokesman. “You can’t expect drastic change overnight.”
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