Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered a halt Thursday to what he described as the Los Angeles Fire Department's "fatally flawed" recruitment process.
The move is part of Garcetti's ongoing reform effort and means the next scheduled LAFD class of 70 eligible cadets will expire. A new recruitment process won't begin until after a process review by the RAND Corporation.
"I have determined that the fire department's recruiting process is fatally flawed," Garcetti said in a statement. "Reforming the fire department is a key part of my back to basics agenda, and the integrity of its recruiting process is vital to ensuring the department responds quickly, is technologically advanced, and reflects the city it serves in the future. Our firefighters perform heroically every day, and I want to make sure that the next generation of firefighters upholds the levels excellence practiced by today's firefighters."
The move disappointed members of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, the union that represents firefighters.
"It has been stated over and over again that restoration is the top priority for the fire department and staffing shortages should be the number one concern for our severely decimated department," said Frank Lima, the president of UFLAC, in a statement. "No new firefighters have been hired in over five years. A scarcity of personnel not only puts firefighter and public safety at risk, but it hurts the city's fiscal health as well."
Lima said firefighters are being forced to work overtime to make up for the staffing deficit. In the first two and a half months of 2014, 12 civilians have died in fire-related fatalities, he said. The city is on pace to set record levels of fire related deaths, Lima added.
"We have hit a tipping point where it just didn't make sense to continue to pay so much overtime without hiring new workers," he said. "It doesn't make financial sense and it's not safe."
Garcetti made the decision after it was revealed that department staff organized special recruiting workshops for "LAFD insiders," according to the statement from the mayor's office. At least two interview and resume preparation workshops were organized by a member of the LAFD, according to a statement from the department's interim Fire Chief James Featherstone.
"These workshops were advertised via LAFD email and were intended to be limited to members of the LAFD Cadet Program and family of LAFD members," Feathersone said. "While these actions may have been conceived in good faith, the result was a recruiting and hiring process that was less than fair and impartial."
The review of the recruitment process by Garcetti's office found classes with a "disproportionate amount of recruits" who were related to LAFD staff, some to senior managers who oversaw the recruitment and training process. Garcetti also cited a one-minute window allowed for filing paperwork that was part of the recruitment process.
The RAND Corporation -- a nonprofit institution that researches and analyzes policy making -- will make recommendations designed to reform the process. The LAFD also started an internal investigation.