Edith Perez, the daughter of migrant farmworkers who became the first Latina partner at one of the nation’s most prestigious law firms and was president of the Los Angeles Police Commission during tumultuous times in the city, has died after a years-long battle with cancer, it was reported Friday.
Perez died July 20 in Los Angeles at the age of 64, the Los Angeles Times reported. She had suffered from cancer for 18 years, her husband, Curt Holguin, said.
She was appointed to the Los Angeles Police Commission in 1995 — several years after the Rodney King beating — by Mayor Richard Riordan, who at the time said “she impressed us with her leadership in building consensus to resolve controversial issues” when she served as vice president of the Recreation and Parks Commission.
During her four-year tenure as president, Perez pushed for numerous police reforms and worked to improve community policing, and she championed a language policy that would improve interactions between officers and people who spoke little or no English.
“She threaded the needle between police reform and caring for line officers,” Holguin said, according to The Times. “She visited stations, talked one-on-one to officers about their needs, went to shooting ranges, and went to the scenes where officers were wounded or killed in action.”
But some of her years as the commission’s president were fraught with controversy.
She had allegedly urged the union in 1998 to go after then-Inspector General Katherine Mader during a closed-door meeting at a time when tension between several commission members and Mader was high. Perez later ruled that the inspector general could examine misconduct complaints only after the department investigated and resolved them. The restriction was met with outrage and was considered an abrupt departure from suggestions by the 1991 Christopher Commission, which outlined police reforms after the King beating.
That same year, The Times reported that “a growing number of critics” believed the five-member panel was struggling to keep then-Police Chief Bernard C. Parks in check. Perez denied accusations that the board had become the chief’ rubber stamp.
In another controversy, Perez admitted to sending anonymous letters to prominent police reform experts to boost the police commission’ image.
Still, she was respected by many for her strong work ethic, extraordinary drive and keen focus, The Times reported.
While serving as president, Perez was with Latham & Watkins, where she worked for more than 25 years. She was the first Latina to become a partner at the law firm and was responsible for hundreds of finance, commercial real estate, corporate and international transactions for the firm’s numerous Fortune 500 clients before retiring in 2011 as an equity partner.
Perez is survived by her husband, daughters Kate and Ryan, and brothers Erick and Willfred.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: