A city panel yesterday cleared the way for the Los Angeles Fire Department to resume hiring firefighters, approving changes that
includes a lottery process to whittle down the number of applicants to a more manageable number, while mirroring the demographic makeup of the initial candidate pool.
Last year, the city was flooded with applications, with more than 13,000 people looking to fill just a few firefighter openings in Los Angeles. City personnel officials asked the 6,000 applicants who passed the written test to submit paperwork on a “first-come-first-serve” basis to help reduce the applicant pool, only to draw complaints when the submission window closed after just one minute, with the target of 900 applicants already reached.
Mayor Eric Garcetti halted recruitment earlier this year amid mounting complaints about the hiring process, describing it as “fatally flawed” and citing concerns over possible nepotism and favoritism.
The overhauled recruitment rules approved unanimously by the Los Angeles Board of Civil Service Commissioners would use a lottery to cull the candidate pool at an earlier stage — before applicants have taken the written test and submitted to other requirements — to 300 applicants.
The lottery method, known as “stratified random sampling,” would ensure that the few hundred picked would reflect the same distribution of gender, ethnicity and race of the larger applicant pool, personnel officials told the commission today.
Under the method, if 10 percent of the potentially thousands of applicants are female, the smaller candidate pool of 300 would theoretically also be one-10th female.
Candidates are not required to offer information about their gender, ethnicity or race, but most do provide this information, personnel officials said. Alternatively, applicants who decide not to disclose this information would be put into their category from which the city will draw from, officials said.
The changes additionally would speed the hiring process, cutting back from the previous 12 months, with the city aiming to get a recruit class ready in five months for training starting in December.
A job bulletin advertising firefighter openings will begin posting Friday, with applications being accepted July 22-24.
Fire department spokesman Peter Sanders said city leaders budgeted for three training academies to be conducted in the upcoming year. There will be two larger classes of about 60 recruits each and one with 45 recruits.
Garcetti has said more needs to be done to increase the diversity of the fire department, pointing last year to a training class that was mostly white and almost entirely male. The one woman from the original class of 70 recruits dropped out before training completed.
The class in June graduated 58 firefighters who are now assigned to the field. The group is almost 57 percent white and includes 15 Hispanics, six Asians, three blacks and one Filipino, according to the city’s personnel figures.
The fire department also was conducting an internal investigation into whether friends and relatives of city firefighters got extra help in the recruitment process, according to Sanders.
Many in the latest graduating class are related to fire department employees. At least 15 of the 58 firefighters who graduated in June have “direct ties to the department,” Sanders said. The original group of 70 recruits contained 13 sons and three nephews of firefighters, fire department figures said.
Garcetti had ordered a Rand Corp. study of the fire department’s recruitment process to be completed before hiring again, but mayoral spokeswoman Vicki Curry said they are moving forward without the report, while basing the process on “informal conversations” with the Rand consultants.
The $270,000 Rand study was expected to be completed by the end of the month, Curry said.