Thursday, December 2, 2021

Peggy York dies; first woman, Deputy Chief of the LAPD, the mastermind for the television series “Cagney and Lacey”

The story of Margaret “Peggy” York’s groundbreaking career at the LAPD reads like a TV show script. In fact, it was the basis for the popular 1980s show Cagney and Lacey, in which one of the first many Yorkies was portrayed as half of a female murder investigation team.

It was long before she paved the way for other women in the police force as First Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Police Force.

York, a 35-year ward, died October 17 at the age of 80 after a series of illnesses, her husband, retired judge Lance Itoh, said.

LAPD welcomed her contribution.

“She started working for the police at a time when female police officers faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” said Chief Michelle Moore. “… Her tenacity and spirit continue to inspire generations of women who join our ranks.”

When Yorke began her career, female officers were transferred to office or prison jobs. They were assigned the job of detectives of the lowest level, they could only reach the rank of sergeant and could only lead other women.

York was born on August 4, 1941 in Minerva, Ohio, to Ralph and Hazel Mendley. The family moved to the Los Angeles area when she was 13 years old.

Her first job with the LAPD was as a civilian radio operator in 1965. She studied at the police academy, and in 1968 she joined her as an officer. Over the years, she went from patrol to investigator, chief, lieutenant, captain and commander, before breaking the department’s managerial glass ceiling and becoming its first deputy chief.

After her appointment as Chief Bernard Parks in 2000, she said, “In the past, I also want to acknowledge the tremendous commitment of women who have not had career opportunities.”

In an often-told story, Yorke was at the scene of a murder in 1981 when she met the love of her life, Lance Ito. He recalled that they had met at 4 am in Eagle Rock, “examining a corpse.” He was a lawyer and she worked on her all-female homicide team. They dated and got married a few months later. Ito gained national prominence when he presided over OJ Simpson in 1995 as a Supreme Court Justice.

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During the trial, prosecutors brought up the story of his wife to the LAPD, who suggested that Ito withdraw from the case because he would be biased to rule on the admissibility of the recordings of the former police detective. Mark Fuhrman spoke disparagingly of York.

“I love my wife very much, and criticism hurts me like any other spouse, and I think it’s reasonable to assume that this could have consequences,” Ito replied emotionally. But he refused to resign, and prosecutors withdrew his request, not wanting to risk a wrong trial. The jury found Simpson not guilty of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

York retired in 2002 and the following year became the head of the Los Angeles County Public Safety Directorate, the specialized police agency in charge of county facilities, parks, and hospitals. With 600 sworn officers and 750 contract guards, it was the county’s fourth-largest police department. She resigned from this position in 2009.

In her retirement, York devoted herself to public service in groups such as The Salvation Army, Rotary Club, the Children’s Court Committee, Women Against Gun Violence, and the Los Angeles Police Museum, where she served as Chair of the Circle of Chiefs. In 2008, she campaigned strongly for a seat on the Pasadena City Council, losing out to future Mayor Terry Thorneck.

Since Ito’s retirement in 2015, the couple has traveled extensively and spent time with friends and family. She had three children from her former marriage to Donald York.

“She was not afraid to challenge the usual roles of women. The law enforcement community is poorer without her intelligence, wisdom and generosity, ”said Commander Ruby Flores, president of the Los Angeles Women’s Police, police officers and officers. “We have lost a titanium woman. But her legacy and contributions to the advancement of women in the LAPD will live on. ”

In addition to her 40-year-old husband, she has brothers Gregory Mendley and Jeff Manley, sons David York, Dennis York, daughter Cynthia York Shadian, seven grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

Deutsch is a special correspondent for the Times.

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