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Obituaries : Connie Speck; Led Women in Police Ranks

February 07, 1988|MEG SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

Connie Speck, the first woman to achieve the rank of lieutenant and captain in the Los Angeles Police Department, died Thursday at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage after a long battle with cancer. She was 55.

A mother of four who joined the force in 1957 to supplement her husband's income, she went on to become a sergeant in 1964, a lieutenant in 1975 and a captain on Oct. 5, 1980.

When she retired in 1982 after 25 years on the force, she was commander of the West Valley Area.

A Symbol to Some

"She was more than a role model; she was mythical symbolic kind of stuff," said Diane Harbor, a retired LAPD commander who became the department's second woman captain in 1981. When Speck enrolled in the Police Academy 25 years ago, there were only "about 100" women on the police force, said Harbor, who was a classmate. Now there are 829 women among the LAPD's 8,089 officers, said Pat Fogerson, a drill instructor at the Police Academy.

Seven years after joining the force, Speck was appointed sergeant, the highest rank held by a woman at the time. Later that year, Speck placed a police hat on her younger sister's head at a Police Academy graduation. It was the first time that two sisters had served together in the department.

Speck, who characterized herself as less of a pioneer than an achiever, initially did not seek further advancement in the department, she said in a 1980 interview. Instead, she enrolled in 1972 at the Glendale College of Law, planning to switch careers.

Seeks Higher Rank

But by 1975, she had remarried and her husband, Dale Speck, then a deputy chief of police, encouraged her try for a higher rank, she said.

In July of that year, Speck became the LAPD's first woman lieutenant after scoring the highest of 285 successful applicants in qualifying examinations.

Police Chief Daryl F. Gates in 1980 appointed her as chief of detectives for the Rampart Division, a position that made her the first woman captain in LAPD history.

In addition to her husband, Speck is survived by her sister, Sandra Hendricks, a detective in the West Valley Station, and her brother, Larry Gordon, a Huntington Beach police officer. Speck's other survivors include four children, two stepchildren and nine grandchildren.

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