Taking on the culture of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the City Council on Friday confirmed the appointment of Alan Skobin to the Fire Commission.
Skobin, 59, served on the Los Angeles Police Commission for the past nine years as the department underwent dramatic changes that were forced by a federal court consent decree.
"A lot of the issues we are dealing with in the Fire Department are similar to those we had with the police under the consent decree," said Skobin, who was confirmed on a 10-0 vote. "We are dealing with the culture of the department and need to show the firefighters we are there to help them.
"It is not about the public service they provide. It's more about how we deal with the other issues the department is facing."
Most recently, there have been concerns that the department misstated response times, and that emergency response has slowed because of budget cuts. There are also questions about how the department handles the discipline of firefighters.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked Skobin to transfer to the LAFD Commission to help bring about some of the same changes instituted at the LAPD.
The city also has hired an outside consultant, Jeff Godown, to serve as interim director of Statistical Analysis and Review. Godown had been in charge of the LAPD's CompStat bureau, which uses crime statistics to direct policing efforts. He is charged with developing a similar system for the Fire Department.
Skobin is vice president and general counsel for Galpin Motors in North Hills and has been a reserve sheriff's deputy for more than 20 years. He was originally appointed to the Police Commission by former Mayor James Hahn and reappointed by Villaraigosa.
"While police work is different in many ways from the Fire Department, a lot of the changes that are needed are similar," Skobin said, pointing to the LAFD disciplinary system and the ways the department is held accountable for response times.
"We need to look at the culture. There are things you celebrate and things you change. Having been in the bowels of the consent decree and the bowels of change at LAPD, I think we can bring about change in the Fire Department."
Councilman Mitch Englander strongly endorsed Skobin's appointment.
"His experience and expertise will be invaluable as we look to change the department," Englander said.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl also urged Skobin to look at where the city needs to add service to improve response times.
"The big question for me is the resources and the services," Rosendahl said. "You have been on the Police Commission, so you understand that public safety comes first. I'm upset because we had a medical emergency that took 13 minutes to get an ambulance there. That's totally unacceptable."
Skobin said he would meet with officials to explore possible remedies.
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