Judge Lance Ito and Peggy York attended a screening of the documentary “Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain” at the Japanese American National Museum in 2014. Ito’s parents were incarcerated at the Wyoming camp during World War II. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

The Los Angeles Police Department on Oct. 19 mourned the loss of retired Deputy Chief Margaret A. “Peggy” York, the first woman to hold that rank. York died Oct. 17 at age 80.

York had been married to retired Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, who presided over O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial in the mid-1990s, since 1981.

Described as a trailblazer by her peers, York was first appointed to the LAPD in 1965 as a radio telephone operator and worked in that capacity until 1968 when she entered the police academy, becoming a policewoman on April 22, 1968 — a time when women were only allowed to work certain assignments.

“She joined policing at a time when women were faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said, describing her as a “consummate professional” and “pioneer.”

“She demonstrated true grit and utilized her talents to ascend to the highest ranks within the department,” Moore said. “Along the way, she touched many lives, and it was truly an honor to have worked alongside such a humble leader. Her tenacity and spirit continue to inspire future generations of women joining our ranks.”

During her tenure, York worked a variety of assignments as an investigator — most notably as one-half of an all-female homicide investigation team that inspired the 1980s television show “Cagney and Lacey” — and went on to become a supervisor, lieutenant, captain and commander, culminating her career as the first female deputy chief of the department.

According to **Newsweek,** York and Ito met while investigating a murder in 1981, when she was a detective and he was part of the district attorney’s elite gang unit.

During the Simpson trial, York’s connection with Detective Mark Fuhrman, a key witness in the case, became an issue. When tapes surfaced showing Fuhrman using racist language and trash-talking York, it was clear that York and Fuhrman had a past; in fact, she had been his superior officer. Ito almost had to step down as presiding judge.

York, born Aug. 4, 1941 in Canton, Ohio, retired from the LAPD on Nov. 17, 2002, and was last assigned to Operations-Central Bureau. She later was appointed the chief of police for the Los Angeles County Police and worked as a consultant for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, founding the Margaret York Company consulting and investigations firm and serving as its president and CEO. She also ran for City Council in Pasadena.

Los Angeles Police Women Police Officers and Associates President Commander Ruby Flores issued a statement about the inspirational example York set for countless women in the LAPD.

“(York) was not afraid to challenge conventional roles for women … The law enforcement community is poorer without her intellect, her wisdom and her generosity,” Flores said. “We lost a titan of a woman, but her legacy and contribution towards the advancement of women on the LAPD will live on.”

In an interview after Ito’s retirement, former District Attorney Robert Philibosian said that the couple enjoyed traveling together, hosting cookouts at their house, and hanging out with friends.

York had three children from a previous marriage; she and Ito did not have children together.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *