LA Chief Resigns; Replacement Named

Chief Brian Cummings will remain at the department through a transitional period.

The proposal, which Garcetti supported as City Council president, initially boosted Cummings' stature at City Hall, despite opposition from the city firefighters' union. Villaraigosa praised Cummings as the "visionary architect" of the new staffing plan when he named him chief.

But Cummings' stature plummeted after last year's admission that published response times were faulty. A later report by a panel of experts concluded that those charged with managing LAFD statistics were poorly qualified and all of the agency's earlier analyses "should not be relied upon."

In subsequent months, Cummings was second-guessed in clashes with the City Council, fire commissioners, employee groups and the leading candidates for mayor, including Garcetti, who in the chief's management and questioned a series of administrative decisions.

Cummings' replacement will need to grapple with a $14-million shortfall in the department's half-billion-dollar annual budget caused partly by increased ambulance services approved by the council, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said.

In the coming months, the department is also expected to wrestle with the sensitive issue of bringing lower-paid civilian dispatchers into the department's 911 call center, which has historically been staffed by firefighters.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks said he was disappointed by Cummings' departure, saying that the chief made major strides in addressing disciplinary issues at the department that had led to expensive lawsuits. In one case, multiple firefighters sued after an incident in which a member of the force was knowingly fed dog food at a station.

"He addressed those [disciplinary] issues very quickly," said Parks, a former police chief. "And we have not seen that kind of horseplay at the stations."

Westside Councilman Mike Bonin, who has complained that LAFD brass resisted suggestions to aid firefighters by deploying tablet computers to rescue units, welcomed Thursday's announcement, saying that it creates an opportunity for a fresh start.

"Whoever comes in next has a lot of big and very daunting challenges ahead of them," Bonin said. "Morale is in the toilet. Our response times are not nearly good enough. We still have lots of questions about the department's management, its use of data and the accuracy of its reporting."

Times staff writers Kate Linthicum and Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report.

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