The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) is undergoing much-needed changes that start at the beginning, by correcting the hiring process.
More than 10,000 people applied to become firefighters. They dream of being one of the 300 chosen to take a written test, as the first step to joining 60 recruits in a fire academy class that starts training in December.
Mayor Eric Garcetti had suspended the hiring of new recruits after serious problems in the process were revealed, since relatives of firefighters were getting preferential treatment. According to reports, there were even special workshops to help relatives with the hiring process. Also, registration deadlines for candidates were imposed and then those candidates were rejected because they were considered to be late.
This week, LAFD Independent Assessor Sue Stengel sent a report to the Fire Commission that recommends new hiring rules. Specifically, she suggested that officials with relatives applying for a job be automatically excluded from the hiring process, as well as ensuring that there is no contact between relatives and the people choosing the recruits.
This is a very simple recommendation that should apply to the hiring of all public employees. It is a mistake to think that it is okay to have favoritism to family in job positions that should be open to competition. Positions should be filled by candidates who meet the necessary requirements, which do not include being related to a firefighter.
The LAFD, under the new leadership of Chief Ralph Terrazas, faces changes in structure and technology, among others. We hope that Stengel’s proposal ends the problem with nepotism.