More outreach is needed to increase the number of women and minority firefighters in the Los Angeles Fire Department, according to a report released Thursday by a Santa Monica-based think tank.
Female athletes and recent military veterans belonging to a minority racial group, such as Hispanic, Asian and black, should be targeted for recruitment, Rand Corp. researchers recommended in the 150-page report.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered the $270,000 study from Rand last year in an effort to improve the city’s firefighter hiring process amid criticism that the LAFD’s recruitment tends to favor relatives of existing employees, resulting in less diversity.
The Rand report also suggests that city leaders increase the fire department’s budget for recruitment efforts, which are currently being carried out by four individuals.
Rand researchers said fire stations could serve as recruitment centers, with staff at each site undergoing training to become “official recruiters.”
The Rand report also recommends that the city bring in experts to devise a selection process that is more tied to the skills “required to be an effective firefighter.”
Some applicants for city firefighter jobs complained last year that the city’s process for whittling down the number of initial applicants — often from an initial pool of 10,000 — to a more manageable number is too arbitrary.
In a recent hiring round, only the applicants who were able to submit paperwork within the first 60 seconds after the submission window began were moved onto the next round, which some said excluded qualified potential recruits.
Garcetti temporarily halted the recruitment process last year, saying he wanted to develop a better way of hiring firefighters using suggestions from Rand.
He ended up restarting the hiring before the Rand report was released, this time revising the winnowing process so that the smaller pool of applicants maintains the same gender and racial demographics as the initial group.
Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said the mayor is pleased the Rand report contains some recommendations that the city has already implemented.
“We will closely review this final report as we continue our work to ensure L.A. hires the best possible firefighters,” he said.
Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said he will review the report and work with the mayor’s and personnel offices to “continue to refine the hiring process to employ a diverse field of qualified candidates as LAFD firefighters.”
The city began hiring firefighters again last year after a five-year hiring freeze prompted by budget cuts.
The first graduating class since the freeze was lifted contained no women. The original class of 70 recruits who started the 20-week-long training was about 55 percent white and had one women who dropped out. This group also contained 13 sons and three nephews of firefighters.
A recent class that started training in December contains four women — two who are white, one Asian and one Hispanic. The rest of the class is made up of 19 white, 13 Hispanic, five black and two Asian men.