LAFD chief to step down following criticism


Newly-elected Mayor Eric Garcetti says he asked the chief to step down. Garcetti says he felt change in leadership was needed because the chief has yet to fulfill a pledge to improve the department's 911 response time. That became a huge issue last year after fire officials admitted to overstating how fast rescuers arrived at emergencies.

The chief was also under scrutiny for pulling fire fighters off of fire trucks and putting them in paramedic vehicles to compensate for widespread cuts to the department's budget, staff and resources.

"The fire department is a high priority for me. This is a life and death department, one in which response times matter. And I have not seen enough movement there and I want to make sure that we have technology in place that exist in other departments and that we are prepared for any emergency," Garcetti said.

Garcetti appointed James Featherstone as the acting chief in the interim. He will take over from Cummings on Nov. 1.

Cummings, who has been with LAFD since 1980, is retiring from the department in February. He will continue to be paid his annual salary of $286,000 until that time.

"Serving those who live, work and play in Los Angeles is an extremely rewarding experience," Cummings said in a statement to the department. "I remain committed to the ongoing success of this great department. I will retire confident that Los Angeles' strong support of public safety and the Los Angeles Fire Department will afford the continued provision of service befitting the City of Angels."

Featherstone, a former L.A. fire captain, is currently head of the city's Emergency Management Department. He will return to that post after a permanent fire chief is found.

The LAFD has been under fire for months over its 911 response times. Cummings blamed budget cuts during testimony before the City Council.

Upon being appointed fire chief in 2011 by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor credited Cummings with finding ways to slash $50 million from the fire department's budget during one of the city's worst economic crisis.

Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters Los Angeles, says Cummings should have fought to prevent deep cuts throughout the fire department.

"He advocated for the cuts. He never did enough to fight for our resources," said Lima.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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