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L.A. mayor
announces new fire chief, hoping to end culture
of discrimination

L.A. mayor
announces new fire chief, hoping to end culture
of discrimination

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, hoping to eradicate what critics have called a culture of discrimination, hazing, and sexism, announced Tuesday that he has named a 32-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department to serve as the city's first black fire chief.

Douglas L. Barry, who has been the interim chief since January, had initially rejected the full-time position but said Tuesday he changed his mind because there was still work to be done.

''The mission we have undertaken is not yet complete,'' Barry said. ''I feel much has been accomplished and now is not the time to break the momentum of change being embraced by the department.''

Former chief William Bamattre was forced to retire last year amid accusations that he had failed to root out hazing and harassment during a decade on the job.

Harassment and discrimination cases filed by LAFD employees have cost taxpayers nearly $15 million since 2005, including a record $6.2 million judgment last month to Brenda Lee, a black lesbian firefighter who said she was taunted and retaliated against for complaining.

Several other major lawsuits are pending, including the case of black firefighter Tennie Pierce, who said that white colleagues spiked his spaghetti with dog food and that he suffered retaliation for reporting the incident. The mayor vetoed a settlement in that case when pictures surfaced showing Pierce taking part in hazing, and a trial is expected in September.

Barry, 54, has visited every city firehouse to emphasize the department's commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on horseplay, hazing, and harassment.

''If the last eight months are any indication of Chief Barry as fire chief, I'm extremely optimistic,'' said Steve Tufts, president of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City. (AP)

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