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L.A. Times’ Paul Pringle Wins Inaugural Award from the Center for Integrity in News Reporting

Times Staff Writer Paul Pringle was honored for his investigation into leadership at the Los Angeles Fire Department.
(Joanna Pringle)
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On May 14, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Paul Pringle was honored with the inaugural Center for Integrity in News Reporting print journalism award for his investigation into leadership at the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD). The nascent organization presented the awards at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., with a mission to celebrate fair and objective journalism.

Pringle’s story, which was the latest of several investigative pieces he had reported about the LAFD, detailed egregious misconduct among firefighters, who were never terminated for their actions. Moreover, Pringle reported that the LAFD handed out no punishment at all in more than 90% of the roughly 1,900 disciplinary cases that were closed in 2021 and from 2017 through 2019, combined.

Documents obtained by The Times reflected what critics called a deep-rooted pattern of the LAFD failing to hold firefighters fully accountable for serious misconduct.

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Pringle said conducting the investigation was challenging due to “a near-complete lack of cooperation and transparency” from the LAFD top brass, mayor’s office and city attorney’s office. “They refused to grant interviews and withheld volumes of pertinent documents — and even the names of employees — all of which were disclosable under the California Public Records Act,” he said. The Times had to file two lawsuits to force the city to comply with the act.

Pringle believes the story showed readers how a lack of standards, leadership and accountability can corrupt a government entity that otherwise is lauded for its service. “In this case, the behavior was not only abhorrent — it cost the taxpayers millions of dollars,” he said.

After the story was published, Mayor Karen Bass called for reforms, and the LAFD subsequently hired more investigators for its enforcement functions and cleared an enormous backlog of disciplinary inquiries that had allowed firefighters to run out the clock on punishment, according to Pringle. In addition, at least six firefighters have been fired.

Pringle was among several winners announced in the first annual Center for Integrity in News Reporting Awards, honoring print, broadcast, cable and television reporting. Each winner was awarded $25,000.

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