Bureaucratic mission creep – at taxpayer expense

Those of you living in Los Angeles might want to skip this article, or take blood pressure meds first.  You won’t be happy at this report of what the Los Angeles Fire Department is up to.

LAFD response times are being inexorably dragged down — not by fire calls, and not by requests for those dramatic life-or-death rescues that make the news. Average response times to those serious events actually decreased by 21 seconds between 2007 and 2012, a City Controller audit found.

No, LAFD slowdowns are being caused by a tsunami of ambulance calls from people with shortness of breath, vague pains, cardiac arrest and all manner of real and imagined maladies.

LAFD gets absurd requests — like help finding the lost remote control. And it gets hundreds of calls, every single day, just for a lift to the hospital.

Almost unnoticed, these often lower-level calls now all but define LAFD’s reason for being.

The cost, and the mission drift at LAFD, are vast. A report by Chief Cummings himself concluded that in 2012, LAFD firefighters, who at the basic fireman level earn $187,000 in salary, overtime, health care and pension ($200,000 is the average when all LAFD jobs are included), spent a cumulative 3.2 years simply sitting outside emergency rooms in city ambulances or standing in ER hallways.

. . .

What Cummings’ report didn’t mention is that the elected leaders of San Jose, San Diego and Denver would find the policies long embraced by LAFD brass and the Los Angeles City Council … just plain weird.

Those cities use private ambulances to shepherd non-emergency patients to ERs, for a lot less money, and they avoid compromising their system for true emergencies. Good luck, however, selling that to the powerful and popular firefighters union, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, which plays a major role in electing L.A. city councilmen, showering their campaigns with money and getting out votes for council members on Election Day.

There’s much more at the link.  Infuriating but enlightening reading.

You want to know why so many cities in California are looking at bankruptcy as the only option available to them?  It’s largely because of shenanigans like this.  Unions in those cities have feather-bedded their members’ salaries and benefits until they’re ludicrously out of line with reality.  (For example, Nashville, TN pays its basic-level firefighters and paramedics on an annual scale of $48,364.16-$62,872.16.  Its Fire Department doesn’t seem to have any shortage of staff or applicants!)  The same applies to the state of California’s government, where a prison guard can earn well into six figures every year – a ridiculously high amount for a job like that.  I know – I’ve worked with – many perfectly competent Correctional Officers who make between $20,000 and $30,000 a year.  They’d love to earn salaries like that . . . but they know it’s a completely unrealistic expectation.

California is wasting its residents’ substance on grossly inflated salaries and benefits for its public servants.  That simply can’t continue forever.  Sooner or later, there will have to be a reckoning.



  1. As they say, that which cannot continue, won't. And, as long as bankruptcy is the path instead of bailouts, and as long as it's done in accordance with existing law (unlike some OTHER bailouts we are familiar with), then they can sleep in the bed they made.

  2. *nod*

    Not terribly shocking, actually.

    Here in Albuquerque, AFD (or BCFD [Bernalillo County] or sometimes both!) respond to all 911 medical calls, in addition to Albuquerque Ambulance Service (a [private?] company) who, 90% of the time, is the people who actually do the transport.

    But having fire respond to medical calls means that they can have all the firefighters be EMTs of some sort, for a union mandated boost in pay, and means they have more paramedics on staff, and means they don't sit around quite so much between, y'know, fire calls.

    So they get to go out, show the flag, remind people that they're around and useful and worth the tax money.

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