Garcetti moves to restart suspended LAFD hiring drive

The 58 latest recruits of the Los Angeles Fire Department stand in formation during their graduation ceremony in Panorama City in June.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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With overhauled procedures, Los Angeles is once again moving to hire new firefighters after the process was suspended earlier this year amid concerns about nepotism and mismanagement.

In a bid to boost the number of women and minorities in the LAFD’s ranks, a lottery will be used to winnow the pool of candidates seeking coveted slots in new fire academy classes, according to a draft of revised city rules.

When Mayor Eric Garcetti scrapped the last round of firefighter hiring in March, he promised to follow recommendations of outside experts from the Rand Corp., who were hired to review the recruitment process.


But with the $270,000 report still unfinished, the mayor chose to move ahead with hiring so the city can rapidly fill three classes of recruits budgeted for this fiscal year.

“Timing demands that we get moving now in order to start the first class in December,” said Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for the mayor. “We are open to improve as we move forward and the Rand report will help us in doing that.”

The proposed reforms, scheduled for a final review by the city’s civil service commission Thursday, revamp a hiring process that drew criticism after thousands of candidates for a new class hired earlier this year were excluded because some of their paperwork wasn’t received in the first 60 seconds of a filing period.

Nearly 25% of the 70 recruits eventually hired were related to LAFD firefighters, and the group’s makeup was overwhelmingly white and included only one woman. An ongoing city probe is investigating whether LAFD insiders provided an advantage to favored candidates.

Under the proposed rules, the city would accept firefighter applications online for several days beginning July 22. All of the applicants would be entered in a lottery with a limited number of winners selected to move on to a written exam, background check and scored interview.

The drawing would be weighted to ensure the share of women and minorities that advance closely matches the number that apply, according to Gloria Sosa, an assistant general manager at the city Personnel Department, who worked with the mayor’s office and fire officials to revise the process.


Those not selected in the lottery would have to wait for a future drawing, regardless of their qualifications, Sosa said. Candidates who were close to being hired when the process was scrapped in March will be asked to submit new applications, she said.

“This new process will reflect the applicant pool -- as determined by those who apply, not by the city,” Curry said. “Mayor Garcetti is seeking a system that results in a fire department that better reflects the city of Los Angeles and has the best possible firefighters.”