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Home arrow Management arrow Recommendations for improving the recruiting and hiring of los angeles firefighters

Logistics and Timing

Efficient timing of selection procedures and their appropriate phasing in the process are additional factors to consider. For example, interviews, field investigations, medical examinations, and psychological examinations are too labor-intensive and cost-prohibitive to administer early in the selection process, when the candidate pool is at its peak. Alternatively, if written testing is administered early in the process, the large number of applicants requires a large-capacity locale for test administration and sufficient planning to allow candidates to schedule examinations without overwhelming the testing centers.

Difficulties in gathering enough staff for panel reviews, interviews, and written exams can also lead to scheduling problems that can excessively lengthen the selection process. For example, during the last cycle, the Personnel Department spent seven weeks conducting PIQ interviews, partly because staff could commit to running sessions only one day of the week.

Other issues–including that CPAT scores are only valid for a specified time period–can further impact how the selection process should be sequenced and timed. These types of logistic issues need to be carefully addressed.

Civil Service Standards, Guidelines, and Regulations

The Personnel Department and the LAFD must ensure that the selection process adheres to a series of regulations, policies, and procedures outlining scoring procedures, testing procedures, and the types of questions that can be asked. The Civil Service Rules and the City Charter impose explicit regulations on how tests are scored and candidates are certified. The Civil Service Rules and the City Charter dictate that candidates should be eligible for certification only if they score in the top “three whole scores” (City of Los Angeles Civil Service Rules, Section 5.8; City of Los Angeles Charter, Section 1010). To calculate this, a candidate's score on any “weighted”[1] (not pass/fail) test is averaged and then rounded to the nearest integer to provide their “whole score.” Currently, the firefighter selection process has only one element that is weighted, the interview. This means that a candidate's final weighted score is simply his or her score on the interview. Candidates must therefore score 95, 100, or 105 (the top three possible scores) in order to move on and be certified. (Only candidates with military experience can achieve the highest score because the City Charter also mandates awarding a 5 percent credit for military service [City of Los Angeles Charter, Section 1006].) If there are not enough candidates with the top three whole scores, the city can certify candidates further down the list until there are five more certified candidates than there are openings. All of the other selection steps except the interviews are treated as pass/fail, thus avoiding the “three whole scores” requirement. Civil Service Rules also dictate that the minimum passing score for a weighted written test is 65 percent.

A wide range of additional regulations and standards restrict how the LAFD and the Personnel Department conduct the selection process. Because firefighters are not sworn peace officers, the Personnel Department is limited in the questions they can ask candidates. For example, while a police officer candidate can be asked about prior arrest records, firefighter candidates can be asked only if they have actually been convicted of a crime. Background investigators are given POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) training and abide by those rules when investigating firefighter candidates. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) govern the amount of information that can be shared about the medical and psychological exams. Because of these two laws, the LAFD and the Personnel Department are prohibited from knowing why candidates were disqualified by these exams.

At most stages, candidates who are not chosen to move on in the process are not disqualified, but instead are issued a non-select letter. A disqualification means that a candidate cannot continue in the process but has a right to appeal the decision. Any process that disqualifies personnel typically leads to many appeals and an added resource burden on the Personnel Department. Not only can candidates appeal a disqualification, but they also have a chance to appeal a non-select decision after receiving their final score on the written test, or after the oral interview if they believe the interviewer made a mistake.

  • [1] This is the term used in the Civil Service Rules. We use it here to refer to the Civil Service's interpretation of the term only.
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