It seems as if transparency is always in danger when information about public entities is not to their liking.
The latest government agency feeling threatened, and rightfully so, is the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Rather than responding to criticisms over the department’s failure to be truthful in how it reports its data with a plan to remedy the situation, the LAFD has instead decided to become even less transparent.
On Tuesday — though they did do some back peddling on Wednesday— LAFD officials issued a notice that it will no longer release any information to the media regarding calls for service to the fire department for fires, ambulance and paramedic service, or other items the media usually gets from the departments’ public information office. Rather than inspiring confidence in the department, their decision only makes us wonder what else they are trying to hide.
There is no doubt that the information they are now trying to squelch should be available to the public, especially since it’s the public that pays for the fire department.
This edict will also result in a lot of misinformation and more media helicopters flying around emergency incidents, as news crews try to gather information not provided by the department.
LAFD claims City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has instructed the LAFD not to give out information about its activities.
The worry of course is that information could eventually be used in lawsuits brought against the department for failing to respond to an emergency situation within the acceptable timeframe.
The LAFD’s admission that its response times were longer than what they had reported to the public and city council, potentially endangering life and property, only begs for greater transparency in how the department does its job.
The LAFD and city attorney need to understand that they work for the public and need to provide information to the public’s information providers.
Mayor Villaraigosa and the city council should act swiftly to get to the root of the problem, and stop the department from covering up its failures.