Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas. Photo by John Schreiber.

A half-dozen male minority members of a Los Angeles Fire Department unit are suing the city, alleging they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of their ethnicity.

“The LAFD is essentially an all-white boys club and anyone who fails to align themselves with this mentality is looked down upon and treated differently,” the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint, which seeks unspecified damages, also names Chief Ralph Terrazas, former Fire Marshal John Vidovich and Assistant Fire Chief Kwame Cooper as defendants.

A representative for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All of the plaintiffs are members of the LAFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau. Jerome Boyd, Gary Carpenter, Andre Johnson, David Riles and Aaron Walker are black, and Glenn Martinez is Latino.

According to their court papers filed Wednesday, black and female firefighters within the FPB have been branded by others within the department as employees who join the bureau because they are “lazy and afraid” to fight fires.

“Due to this department-wide systemic racial and gender animus, plaintiffs have continuously been looked down upon and subjected to discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of their African-American race and association with other African-American firefighters,” the suit alleges.

The LAFD’s internal racism is exemplified by the designation of several fire stations, including stations 66, 33 and 14, as “black-free zones,” according to the lawsuit, which also alleges that black and female members of the FPB are often referred to as “slugs.”

The mistreatment of the plaintiffs intensified when they reported and disclosed “various acts of misconduct and activity” that they believed did not comply with local, state and federal regulations, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also alleges that Vidovich implemented an “Operation Catch- up” program in which he used untrained and inexperienced inspectors to perform duties after media reports that the LAFD had thousands of overdue inspections.

The inspectors used by Vidovich completed “unreliable, flimsy fire inspection reports” that were ratified by him and approved by FPB members when they should have been rejected, the suit alleges.

Several of the plaintiffs refused to take part in shortcut inspections and advised their inspectors to not perform any rushed jobs, the complaint says.

Vidovich filed his own lawsuit against the city and United Firefighters of Los Angeles City on Jan. 9, alleging he was ousted as fire marshal in retaliation for his reporting of alleged illegal and fraudulent acts being committed by some members of the FPB.

–City News Service

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