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Study on Bias in L.A. Fire Dept.

November 20, 1994

* I have been a member of the Los Angeles City Fire Department for 10 years and have seen many changes, mostly in how our department has bent over backward and helped women and minorities prepare for and become successful in attaining the position of firefighter and other departmental promotions. Probationary firefighters are assigned to the busiest stations so that they may acquire the best possible training and experience.

Hundreds of minorities have successfully received training at these so-called "rookie kill stations" (Nov. 12 and 15) and are now productive members of our department. These stations are the most sought after assignments by all members because of the high level of activity at these locations. To say that rookies are not trained at these stations is untrue; members assigned to these stations are the "cream of the crop" and take great pride in their work and in preparing rookies to become the most proficient firefighters possible, regardless of ethnicity or gender.

It seems that those rookies who are complaining just can't "cut the mustard" and are clinging to anything they can before they sink. It is unfortunate that they blame their failures on racial or sexual biases rather than on their inability in meeting the minimum standards of the department.

As for promotional opportunities, 11 of the top 20 on the promotional list for captain and four recently promoted chief officers are minorities. To say that there is a lack of opportunity or that it is difficult to promote is inaccurate.

Incidentally, I am a member of a minority group and I don't blame my achievements or failures on any ethnic biases. I take full responsibility for my own performance.



* It appears that Los Angeles Fire Chief Donald Manning is finally being forced to confront the truth that he has quietly encouraged behind the scenes for so many years. The promotional system certainly does include aspects of "who you know" that accompanies the "do as I say, not as I do" behavior of several individuals from captain on up.

There are blatant examples of differential treatment of women, including one woman whose career was adversely affected after being arbitrarily and unfairly accused of being "inappropriate" for wearing shorts and a T-shirt to a fire station on a 95-degree day, even though upon arrival she had immediately changed into the required paramedics uniform!

Shame on any LAFD chief who denies the existence of the "good old boy" network while actively participating in it! High quality and good employee morale are too important to be overlooked for the sake of interdepartmental politics!


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