Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive

Confirmation expected today

for LAFD's first black chief

New, 10:30 p.m.: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected Douglas L. Barry, a 31-year department veteran, to be the first African American to helm the LAFD in its 121-year history. The council will consider his appointment today.

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to consider the nomination of Douglas L. Barry as chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department today.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected Barry, a 31-year department veteran, to be the first African American to helm the LAFD in its 121-year history

The Public Safety Committee confirmed Barry's nomination yesterday.

Appearing before the committee, Barry said his goals as chief will be to address issues of discrimination and hazing, disaster management and making the department more efficient.

Barry has headed the department -- which has about 3,590 uniformed personnel -- on an interim basis since William Bamattre stepped down Jan. 1.

Bamattre's departure followed the publication of audits that documented inappropriate behavior within the department, and fallout from a discrimination lawsuit stemming from a 2004 prank in which firefighters fed dog food to a black colleague.

"The main goal first is to address the issues that were identified in the audit. We've developed an action plan to address the issues. I think that's my number one priority," Barry said yesterday.

The chief is visiting the city's 104 fire stations to tell firefighters that pranks and hazing will not be tolerated.

"I point out the expectation of the public in our behavior has risen," he said. "We need to meet those expectations."

The appointment of Barry as interim chief came after the mayor vetoed the council's $2.7 million settlement with firefighter Tennie Pierce, who claims he suffered discrimination and harassment when fellow firefighters fed him dog food at a Westchester fire station.

The case is scheduled to go to trial next Monday, and the council is scheduled to discuss the lawsuit today in closed session.

Firefighter Brenda Lee won a $6.2 million jury award in July on her claims that she was discriminated against because of her race, gender and sexual orientation.

Barry joined the department in 1975, working his way up the ranks as firefighter, engineer, battalion chief, chief of staff and assistant chief.


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