The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to name a downtown intersection after Takayo “Rose” Matsui Ochi, a civil rights activist, attorney and the first Asian American woman to serve on the Los Angeles Police Commission.
The motion, which was introduced by Councilman Kevin de Leon, calls for the intersection of First and San Pedro streets to be named “Rose Ochi Square,” and for a permanent ceremonial sign to be erected and displayed at the location.
Ochi, who died on Dec. 13, two days before her 82nd birthday, “shattered numerous glass ceilings becoming the first (Asian and Pacific Islander) woman (appointed) to numerous national and local positions,” the motion states.
Ochi was born in East Los Angeles on Dec. 15, 1938. She spent part of her early life in internment camps where forcibly evacuated Japanese Americans were held during World War II. When she was 3 years old, she and her family were sent to the Santa Anita Detention Center, where they lived for six months before being sent to the Rohwer camp in Arkansas.
Her family made it back to Los Angeles after the war, and she went on to study at UCLA, where she graduated in 1959, then Loyola Law School, where she graduated in 1972.
She is credited with developing Los Angeles’ Use of Force Policy, and she was instrumental in the Los Angeles Police Department hiring more women and officers of color.
“On a national level, Ms. Ochi was instrumental in declaring Manzanar Internment Camp as a National Historic Site. She also supported the Redress Bill and was mentioned by President Reagan in his speech just before he signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988,” according to the motion.
Ochi served as a U.S. assistant attorney in President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1997, becoming the first Asian American woman to serve in the position.
She returned to L.A. and served on the Los Angeles Police Commission from Aug. 15, 2001, to June 30, 2005.
On the commission, she “played a significant role in the development of policies and procedures that helped this department realize its core value of Quality Through Continuous Improvement,” the LAPD said in a statement after her death. “Her work guiding the department through the turbulent days following the 9/11 attacks, and the initial phases of our federal consent decree were pivotal.”