Breaking Barriers

Meet Jackie Lacey, LA’s first female and first African American district attorney.

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    Pauline Adamek

Jackie Lacey was elected to head the nation’s largest local prosecutorial office last December, overseeing nearly 1,000 attorneys. While she aims to be tough on criminals, the Granada Hills resident has a softer side, with passions including the color purple and discount purse shopping.  

Tell us a bit about what you do as DA.

“Well, ‘the buck stops with me’ is a really good term. My name is on every single felony criminal complaint that’s filed. Every high-profile case that’s reported in the media has my name tagged onto it. There are a thousand lawyers, and I’m held responsible for everything they do—the successes and the mistakes.”

What did it feel like the day you were sworn in?

“It was great. I had all my kids together, and we had decided to all wear purple—my favorite color. The first time it hit me was when I saw all the television trucks outside of the USC’s basketball stadium. I thought, ‘Wow this is really a big deal!’ It was a very ‘out-of-body’ experience.”

Being “the first” in two categories, how do you manage being a major role model?

“I’m still getting used to that idea. When I first decided to run, to me it was a footnote that I was a woman and an African American. I do meet a lot of girls. Yesterday I was at a fundraiser for the Rape Treatment Center, and I sat next to a student at Marlborough Girls School who, at the tender age of 10, wants to be the president of the United States. I can’t help but have some sort of camaraderie with her because I’m on this side of it, having just won my very first election, and she’s on the other side, looking forward to it. If that means that as a result of meeting me there will be more women in leadership in our government—because there are so few—I’m honored.”

How is violent crime in the Valley right now?

“I rely on the LAPD statistics for the Valley. In general, I think those of us who live in the Valley can still go out at night, and we do. And that’s kind of a litmus test, right? People enjoy Valley nightlife and the community without a lot of fear. Van Nuys continues to see random violence. There is still gang presence in certain neighborhoods, but compared to when I was a first prosecutor in the San Fernando Courthouse in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s—it’s way down. North Hollywood used to be a city where you saw the most homicides—many of them gang homicides—and now, with the arts community, North Hollywood is a destination.”

What concerns you?

“I am concerned about these hit-and-runs. A lot of us walk with headphones and music. It’s caused me to make sure that I take a path when I’m walking that doesn’t have a lot of heavy traffic in it, and I’m always watching for that because I think that’s an issue. We just need to be careful.”

What are some of your favorite places to go in the Valley?

“I’ve belonged to Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch for about 16 years. Their claim to fame is it’s the most racially diverse church in LA County, and they do a lot for the community. It’s a modern-day church—laid-back LA.”

What about favorite restaurants?

Oi Asian Fusion on Tampa at Vanowen. The name is a Filipino phrase: “Oi” means “hey.” They do Korean, Japanese, Filipino food and some American comfort food like really good fried chicken strips and dynamite french fries.”

Favorite Valley shops?

“Probably not very glamorous, but I love T.J.Maxx. They have some of the best purses there, and I wear out my purses! My purse has to go from work to an evening out somewhere—and I don’t like to change purses. By about six months, it’s raggedy, so I replace it.”