Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, responding to a barrage of criticism about a Fire Department hiring system that eliminated thousands of qualified applicants, announced Thursday afternoon that he is scrapping the process.
“I have determined that the Fire Department’s recruiting process is fatally flawed,” Garcetti said in a statement. The mayor said he made his decision after he discovered that Fire Department “staff organized special recruiting workshops for LAFD insiders.”
A class of 70 new recruits is in training. A second class of 70 trainees is being suspended until experts from the Rand Corp. evaluate the process and make recommendations to reform the system.
The Times has reported that thousands of candidates who passed the written test were disqualified for the recruit class now in training because paperwork showing they had taken a physical fitness exam did not arrive within a 60-second filing period last spring.
The hiring process was criticized as arbitrary and unfair by candidates and city officials, including Garcetti and Interim Fire Chief James G. Featherstone. Critics said qualified applicants, including some with paramedic and firefighting experience, were passed over simply because they failed to meet the one-minute mark.
The LAFD’s internal watchdog has launched an investigation and will try to determine how applicants advanced at every step of the process and how many are related to firefighters.
More than 20% of the 70 recruits who were hired are relatives of LAFD firefighters. City officials say the class, which is 60% white and has just one woman, failed to increase diversity at the Fire Department.
For decades, the agency has struggled to overcome a legacy of discrimination and bias complaints that have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in legal payouts in recent years.
The mayor has said he wants more progress toward a decades-long goal of having the LAFD be more representative of the city, which is 29% white.