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City audit faults L.A. Fire Department's disciplinary process

Despite repeated vows to reform the way it handles costly discrimination and misconduct complaints, the Los Angeles Fire Department relies on a disciplinary system plagued by poor documentation, uneven punishment and a lack of clear guidelines, according to a city audit.

The allegations outlined in the 220-page report mirror findings that have been raised repeatedly in city audits dating from 1994. 

The cases cited in the study occurred between late 2007 and last year -- after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and top fire officials vowed to change department culture in the wake of legal payouts that had cost taxpayers millions of dollars to settle claims of harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

The audit, conducted by the Fire Commission's office of independent assessor, credited the department with making improvements but noted that it has a way to go to address longstanding problems in its investigative process. The report was presented Tuesday to the Fire Commission.

Among the problem cases cited in the latest audit:

  • A firefighter told two Jewish firefighters, "I'll stick you in an oven," and later pushed a firehouse bench toward one of the men after he filed a discrimination complaint. A station captain failed to take action after being told of the comments, and department investigators failed to fully investigate the incident involving the bench.

  • A firefighter used a racial epithet in front of several firefighters who were having dinner with an African American colleague after a department golf tournament. The firefighter should have received time off but was only issued a written reprimand.
  • Department investigators engaged in alleged misconduct when serving a subpoena for confidential medical records during a disciplinary probe. The audit recommended that the department immediately stop seeking investigative subpoenas, a practice that exposes the city to legal liability, until a formal policy is written.
  • An off-duty paramedic was caught by police with a prostitute in his car as the two appeared ready to engage in a sexual act. Department investigators conducted a cursory interview and failed to file adequately researched reports. In the end, the paramedic received six days off.

Battalion Chief Ronnie Villanueva said in an interview Wednesday that the department acknowledged the problems outlined in the audit and is working with the Fire Commission to reform its investigation and disciplinary system.

"We embrace the report," said Villanueva, a department spokesman. "We need to change the way we do business. We need to improve our process."

-- Robert J. Lopez

Comments () | Archives (17)

"We embrace the report," said Villanueva, a department spokesman. "We need to change the way we do business. We need to improve our process."
Isn't that what they have ALREADY said a million times?? Yes, it is.

Start firing some of these losers and then you will see conduct improve,

The LAFD is basically a millionaires club......each fireman cost the taxpayers over $6 million per lifetime in pay, perks, pensions....

Fire and police...the sacred cows.

They're heroes and we shouldn't be too harsh on them.

Maybe if we dialed back the retirement age to 49 they'd do better?

even worse than this....all 30,000 l.a. city employees are exempt from social security taxes....none of them pay a single penny in social security taxes

dear andy, those that don't pay into social security also can't collect it, so what's the real issue?

isn't it amazing that all these macho professions ... all these macho dudes who are supposedly the best, brightest, strongest -- firefighters, cops, military and all the other good ole boys' clubs -- are such whiny babies and such histrionic, emotionally reactive and cowardly bullies acting out in such cowardly ways toward those they FEAR (i.e., people of color, women, gay men and lesbians....)

What are they so afraid of? being shown up for being not so great after all?

with all this whiny complaining and cowardly bullying, they don't seem so very brave at all in that context do they?

. for shame.

Well, at least they do something to earn a living. Unlike felons in state prison who get everything for free.

Hey Andy Levinson,

Remember that next time you find yourself in the position of needing those fine folks to risk their lives for you, like saving your house from fire or saving YOU from said fire. Or need them for an emergency medical situation at 0200.

As a medical professional who works closely with firefighters/paramedics and sadly has to associate with them outside of work this thought comes to mind:
Even if you don't consider the damage these man-children do to themselves, their professional performance is absolutely appalling and it is the entire medical system that absorbs the negligent mistakes these guys make over and over.

The LAFD is the LAPD 20-30 years ago. I hate to say it- but a lot of L.A. County/City guys simply ARE NOT GOOD PEOPLE and received their jobs from family connections and are able to hold their jobs only through straight up nepotism.

What's wrong with you people? Support the police and firemen! You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Yes, FFs cost the city a lot of money. On average, a firefighter works 54 hour weeks, 14 more hours than most people work in Los Angeles. However, I think your opinion will change when they have to come rescue you someday. But until then keep complaining. The funny part is that most of you complaining are probably sitting pretty in some big LA suburb house, come to the real parts of the city and see the work LAFD does. You probably don't have the guts to run into a burning building or put your hands on a bullet wound anyhow. Give me a break people. By the way, most FFs in LA make a little over $30 an hour, you just don't know the facts, they work way more hours than most people.

That's what you get with union hoods.

wait untill you need them jj. then tell it to their face.are you one of the groups you mention?yeap.

We have the best, and the brightest; and they are your heroes. Kuruc, the best, and the brightest are the ones costing the tax payers money in law suits. The best, and the brightest are on Wall Street also. People make them into gods, so they feel they can do anything.

If you look at the resumes for most men and women who get hired for the LAFD many of them wouldn't even qualify take to an exam with other departments in California. That being said if you raise the standards to take the exam, instead of concentrating on the City's hiring practices of race, gender, and sexual orientation things would be much different. They should hire the BEST INDIVIDUAL for the job regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. But that is what you get when you have an Affirmative Action Employer!

Funny this article says nothing about the African-American Firefighter who threatned another firefighter and his family? Seems that this article is biased.


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