A Rose Blooms in Little Tokyo

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De Leon calls for intersection to be named Rose Ochi Square.

City Councilmember Kevin de Leon released this image on Wednesday.

Rafu Staff and Wire Reports

Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin De Leon on Jan. 13 introduced a motion to designate the intersection of First and San Pedro streets in Little Tokyo as Rose Ochi Square in honor of the late civil rigthts activist.

The motion states that Takayo “Rose” Matsui Ochi, who died on Dec. 13, just two days before her 82nd birthday, “shattered numerous glass ceilings” by becoming the first Asian Pacific Islander woman appointed to various national and local positions.

“A native Angeleno and Japanese American leader who championed civil rights as a powerful advocate and attorney,” said De Leon, whose 14th District includes Little Tokyo. “L.A. will recognize her iconic imprint on our society. She has entered into the halls of American heroes and will forever be remembered.”

The motion, which was seconded by Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, calls for a permanent sign to be erected at the location.

The effort was initiated by Darlene Kuba, a longtime friend and colleague of Ochi. The motion will go to the City Council’s Publid Works Committee, which will hear testimony from the community, then to the full council for a vote.

“This is to honor both the struggles and accomplishments of a remarkable woman,” said Kuba. “Rose Ochi’s entire life was dedicated to ensuring the underserved achieves equity and justice in our society. Rose Ochi was an inspiration for all women to show that they can achieve the impossible through honor and integrity.

“The community appreciates Councilman Kevin De Leon’s efforts to recognize this incredible woman.”

Born in East Los Angeles in 1938, Ochi was uprooted from her home with her family during World War II when she was 3 years old. They were sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, a converted race track, where they lived for six months before being transferred to the Rohwer camp in Arkansas.

Her family returned to Los Angeles after the war. Ochi graduated from UCLA in 1959 and from Loyola Law School in 1972.

She is credited with developing Los Angeles’ Use of Force Policy and was instrumental in the LAPD 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.

Rose Ochi, pictured at City Hall in 2013, supported the designation of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station site in Tujunga as a cultural-historical site. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Ochi was a U.S. assistant attorney general during the administration of President Bill Clinton 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.

The LAPD said in a statement that Ochi “played a significant role in the development of policies and procedures that helped this department realize its core value of Quality Through Continuous Improvement. Her work was pivotal in guiding the department through the turbulent days following the 9/11 attacks, and the initial phases of our federal consent decree.

“Ms. Ochi served the people of Los Angeles for more than 20 years in the Office of the Mayor and the Criminal Justice Planning Office. She later became the first executive director of the California Forensic Science Institute.”

The president of the Board of Police Commissioners, Eileen Decker, stated, “Former Commissioner Ochi served during a critical time for the department during the early stages of the federal consent decree and participated in the selection process which led to Mayor James Hahn appointing William J. Bratton as the chief of police in October 2002. She left a legacy of service to the department and Board of Police Commissioners.”

The consent decree was intended to promote police integrity within the department and prevent conduct that deprives individuals of their rights, privileges, or immunities protected by the Constitution.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore commented, “Rose Matsui Ochi’s influence on this city and nation will be felt for many years to come. She was a tremendous force fighting for civil rights, justice reform, and law enforcement accountability and integrity.”

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