Firefighters criticize LAFD leadership, disciplinary proceedings

An overwhelming number of Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters lack confidence in their leaders, while many are frustrated with perceived inconsistencies in the way members of the top brass discipline were sworn in, according to a new poll released Friday by The Times was checked.

LAFD’s workplace culture survey also found that 56% of sworn female employees who responded cited bullying and harassment as a source of conflict in the department – compared with 19% of sworn men and 26% of civilian women. Additionally, 41% of Black and Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders said bullying and harassment were an issue.

The assessment had been eagerly awaited after several critical messages about the department and calls by some LAFD groups for a federal investigation and the resignation of Chief Ralph Terrazas.

Kris Larson, president of the Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, said the survey results are in line with what members of the group have been saying for months.

“Since 70% of the affidavits surveyed indicated an unfavorable view of the management, the pathetic failure of the leadership, starting with the fire chief, is confirmed,” said Larson. “The membership spoke clearly. It is time for the fire chief to step down. “

Terrazas said creating an “equitable and inclusive work environment” was its top priority.

“This report contains some encouraging results,” Terrazas said in a statement. “And I think that’s a testament to the character of our firefighters and their dedication to the safety of Angelenos every day. At the same time, it is clear that we still have a lot to do and I will always be determined to move this work forward. “

In the survey carried out by Deloitte, more than 1,200 LAFD employees with a total of more than 3,600 employees were interviewed.

The vast majority of respondents indicated that their work “makes sense” and that they have a positive working relationship with their manager. Many also agreed that they enjoy working with their respective teams.

The employees also gave good marks for the “strong personal connections” in the department.

“What keeps me at LAFD are the people,” one interviewee told the researchers. “Overall, they are friendly, helpful, understanding and respectful.”

The responses to the department’s leadership and discipline question were negative. “Less than half of LAFD believe there is a fair, inclusive and diverse work environment,” said the researchers.

The report found that “Members felt that discipline was particularly inconsistent for those in the higher ranks. Many referred to this as an erosion of their trust in the leadership. “

“In interviews and focus groups, sworn members said that the low morale is partly due to a failure to understand the basis for making decisions and a suspicion of a lack of fair discipline,” the researchers said.

The report signaled the challenges the department is facing from younger employees. “Qualitative data indicate that the new generation of employees has different expectations of work-life balance,” the researchers say.

Only 9% of those born after 1995 said they were positive about the department being a “humanistic workplace,” the report says. At the same time, new sworn members gave “positive feedback on learning programs in the academy and during the probationary period,” says the report.

Only 28% of the sworn firefighters answered positively when asked about their trust in the LAFD management. And 81% of the sworn respondents chose “high workload / insufficient resources” when asked about sources of conflict.

The data suggest that “inclusion is not widespread across the organization,” the report said. “Qualitative data from interviews and focus groups also showed the members’ perception of discriminatory, hostile and unprofessional working environments.”

A Times investigation in July found that the agency’s leadership failed to take prompt action against a senior white officer who was reportedly under the influence of the service.

Another Times report investigated complaints that Mayor Eric Garcetti had failed to deliver on his promises to significantly increase the number of female firefighters and to overhaul a section where women and non-white firefighters report feeling bullied has complied.

Garcetti said in a statement that the “fire brigade must be a place where everyone feels safe and supported and where no one has to fear bullying or discrimination of any kind.”

“We know we still have a lot to do to get there and the results of this report confirm that fact,” said Garcetti. He said there will be “aggressive steps towards justice” in the coming weeks.

Freddy Escobar, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, the LAFD firefighters union, said the report confirms the department’s staffing and workload.

“Our staffing issues need to be addressed,” Escobar said of the survey. “It also shows a totally unacceptable level of harassment and bullying in the workplace. UFLAC has zero tolerance for this behavior and we believe that anyone in the LAFD who commits these acts should be held accountable. “

Los Bomberos leaders, who represent Latino firefighters, were still reviewing the report and making no comment. The Stentorians, who represent African American firefighters, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The evaluation took years. Funding for the study was originally included in the mayor’s budget in 2018, but was then left out in the final version.

The money jumped in and out of the household multiple times, most recently when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. This spring, Terrazas donated $ 200,000 in grants to the work.

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