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Fire Chief Bamattre Steps Down

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After weeks of focus on the Los Angeles Fire Department over a "culture of hazing" and in particular, one incident where a fireman was fed dog food in his pasta, Chief Bamattre has stepped down from his post that he has held since 1995. He speaks through the LAFD blog:

I will be stepping down as your Fire Chief on January 1, 2007. As firefighters we pledged, through a formal oath, to “faithfully serve” the City of Los Angeles in the discharge of our duties to the best of our knowledge and ability.

The mayor spoke as well:

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This is a joint decision. Chief Bamattre believes, as I do, that change * while sometimes different * is often necessary. There is little doubt that changing the culture in the Fire Department will require a change in course. And it will take significant commitments from ALL of our City leaders.

But I want to be absolutely clear. Today’s decision is not about a single person. It’s about an institution. And it’s not about the past. It’s about looking to the future.

After the jump, the Mayor's full statement. Photo via LAFD's Flickr Page.
Earlier today, I received a letter from Fire Chief William Bamattre announcing his decision to step down effective at the end of the year and to retire shortly thereafter. I spoke with the Chief earlier today, and I accepted his resignation. First, I want to say something about this man:

Chief Bamattre is a class act. He is a dedicated public servant. He is a good man. Chief Bamattre loves the Fire Department and the City of Los Angeles with a deep and abiding passion. And he's given over thirty-one years of his life protecting the people of our City.

On behalf of all of LA's residents, I want to salute the Chief for his service and wish him the greatest possible happiness in his retirement.

My staff met with Chief Bamattre this week, and we reached a mutual agreement that for the good of the order and the future of the Department, it is time to make a change in leadership.

This is a joint decision.

Chief Bamattre believes, as I do, that change * while sometimes different * is often necessary. There is little doubt that changing the culture in the Fire Department will require a change in course. And it will take significant commitments from ALL of our City leaders.

But I want to be absolutely clear. Today's decision is not about a single person. It's about an institution. And it's not about the past. It's about looking to the future.

I believe that new leadership will bring new opportunities to address the persisting issues raised in past audits. New leadership will help to set a new tone and extinguish the incendiary practices of hazing and harassment that have plagued the Department for some time.

A vigorous search for an Interim Chief is already underway, and we hope to make an announcement in the coming days. We will keep you informed of our progress.

Meanwhile, an international search for a permanent Chief will begin immediately and proceed over the coming months. We intend to search high and low, to consider both internal and external candidates.

I am looking for one thing: A change agent * someone who can chart the right course for the future. We'll look for managers who lead by example and insist on accountability at every level. We'll look for leaders who know how to build bridges between communities. And we'll look for people who understand * as we all do *that the vast majority of firefighters on the line are nothing less than heroes.

These men and women deserve a workplace that is free from foolishness and that is intolerant only of intolerance.

As a first priority, I intend to bring in a Chief who will eliminate hazing and harassment from the ranks of our City's Fire Departments once and for all!

Again, I want to thank Chief Bamattre for his long record of service to the City of Los Angeles. And I want to say a word of thanks to all of the fire fighters on the force, who work so hard each and every day to keep us safe * who put themselves on the line in minor and major catastrophes.

They are there for us 24-7, protecting our families, our homes and businesses, and our lives. And I want to thank the vast majority of our firefighters who represent the City of Los Angeles with a dignity and with a degree of professionalism that should make all of us proud.