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New task force unveiled to address LAFD response times

July 17, 2012 |  2:40 pm

A Los Angeles Fire Department paramedic unit leaves Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in 2004. Credit: Susan Goldman / Bloomberg News

The Los Angeles Fire Commission has formed a new task force to help address lingering questions about its emergency response time data.

The task force will work to ensure the accuracy of the department’s data and make sure that information is shared clearly with the public, officials said at a meeting of the commission Tuesday.

The creation of the task force comes after a recent audit by the city controller found major problems with the department's data and an inconsistent methodology for calculating response response-time statistics.

Fire Commissioner Alan Skobin said the task force and the new focus on statistics “goes to the cornerstone of what we’re trying to do in the department.” He described the group’s first meeting last week as “almost magical” and made him optimistic about what the panel can accomplish.

Timeline: LAFD data controversy

Skobin, a former police commissioner who was appointed to the Fire Commission to help quell a flurry of criticism over the integrity of the department’s response times, helped recruit a team of experts to serve on the task force, including two data specialists from the Rand Corp., two engineering professors from USC and a police captain who helped implement the statistic-tracking COMPSTAT program.

The group will be headed by Pat Butler, an assistant fire chief who was a top candidate in last year’s search for a new chief. Butler was one of two candidates recommended for the job by a city panel that included Skobin and Fire Commission President Genethia Hudley-Hayes, according to a letter from the panel obtained by The Times. Brian Cummings, who was not among the recommended candidates, was ultimately chosen by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

At the Fire Commission meeting Tuesday, officials also waded into a contentious debate over whether the Fire Department’s top watchdog should have access to confidential employee information.

Independent Assessor Stephen Miller has complained that Cummings isn’t allowing him access to the information he needs to do his job. Cummings has been advised by assistants to City Atty. Carmen Trutanich that Miller and the Fire Commission do not legally have the right to such information.

The Fire Commission voted not to hire outside counsel to take the matter to court. But they did vote to instruct Cummings to cooperate with Miller’s investigations.

Zna Houston of the city attorney’s office said that leaves Cummings in the awkward position of having to decide whether to follow the city attorney's advice or the Fire Commission's. “He’s right back in the same position,” she said.


Timeline: LAFD data controversy

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-- Kate Linthicum at Los Angeles City Hall


Photo: A Los Angeles Fire Department paramedic unit leaves Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in 2004. Credit: Susan Goldman / Bloomberg News