Los Angeles

Firefighter Misconduct Cases Increase at LA City Fire

The number of on and off-duty misconduct investigations of LA City Fire Department firefighters increased 71% between 2019 and 2021, and a new report says dozens of other cases are stalled because the Department hasn’t been able to conduct enough administrative trials, called Boards of Rights.

“This potentially encourages members to commit misconduct, knowing there is an absence of accountability,” independent assessor Sue Stengel wrote in a report discussed by the Board of Fire Commissioners this week.

Stengel’s latest report says firefighters facing discipline for refusing the COVID vaccine or refusing to accept additional work days were the most frequent allegations in recent years, and noted that seven sustained, or proven, domestic violence cases were recorded in 2021, compared with only a single sustained case between 2017 and 2019.

The report also showed that while the volume of misconduct cases has increased in the last few years, the number of sustained accusations fell to 47 in 2021, or just 7.3% of the overall complaints, down from 12.6% of the overall complaints in 2019, the last year a similar report was prepared.

Stengel told the Fire Commissioners during a meeting Tuesday that in addition to the 70 known cases awaiting Board of Rights hearings there were potentially dozens more than couldn’t be counted due to a quirk in the Fire Department’s tracking system for misconduct matters.

“The number of cases waiting to be heard by a Board of rights has crisis level,” she said, and recommended the Department find ways to enforce routine penalties and accelerate hearings.

“If you take 10 years to deal with a problem, who remembers what the problem was?,” Commission president Jimmie Woods-Gray said during a discussion of the hearing backlog.

“The corrections need to be done, I agree with you, in a more swiftly manner,” she said.

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