Margaret York, an L.A.P.D. Model for ‘Cagney & Lacey,’ Dies at 80

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She became the constabulary force’s highest ranking pistillate aft she and a detective spouse inspired a TV bid warring transgression successful the streets and sexism successful the ranks.

Margaret York successful  1992. She was the archetypal  pistillate  lawman  main  of the Los Angeles Police Department and fractional  of the archetypal  all-female homicide team, which inspired the TV amusement   “Cagney and Lacey.”
Credit...Gus Ruelas/Los Angeles Daily News, via Associated Press

Katharine Q. Seelye

Nov. 3, 2021, 6:18 p.m. ET

Margaret York, a homicide detective who helped animate the 1980s Emmy-winning constabulary play “Cagney & Lacey,” and who roseate to go the highest-ranking pistillate successful the Los Angeles Police Department, died connected Oct. 17 astatine a infirmary successful Los Angeles. She was 80.

The origin was a bid of illnesses and yet aggregate organ failure, said her husband, Judge Lance Ito, who gained nationalist prominence presiding implicit the O.J. Simpson transgression trial and is present retired.

In astir 4 decades with the L.A.P.D., Ms. York broke galore solid ceilings and successful 2000 was the archetypal pistillate to beryllium named lawman chief, making her the highest-ranking pistillate connected the force. She retired successful 2002.

While moving homicide successful the 1970s, she was paired with Detective Helen Kidder — mainly, some said, due to the fact that the men successful the section didn’t privation to enactment with a woman. This near them partners by default and inadvertently created a groundbreaking squad of an all-female homicide unit.

By 1980 they were attracting attraction for their crime-solving skills, which included helping to find the perpetrators of a notorious bid of murders connected the Sunset Strip.

All this proved irresistible to tv producers, who took the uncommon operation of 2 pistillate detective partners successful Los Angeles, transplanted them to the New York Police Department, glammed them up and made a fast-paced bid called “Cagney & Lacey.” In the show, conscionable arsenic successful existent life, the women battled sexism connected the unit arsenic overmuch arsenic they fought transgression connected the street.

The bid — successful which Tyne Daly portrayed Mary Beth Lacey, the quality based connected Ms. York, and Sharon Gless played her partner, Christine Cagney, based connected Ms. Kidder — ran from 1981 to 1988 connected CBS and won aggregate Emmy Awards.



“We were large quality due to the fact that obscurity other successful L.A. County were women moving homicide,” Ms. Kidder, present retired from the force, said successful a telephone interview. For a clip the 2 were known for having the department’s highest complaint of solving crimes and extracting confessions.

“These radical either look astatine america arsenic a parent figure,” Ms. York told The Los Angeles Times successful 1993, “or they deliberation we are excessively anserine to cognize what to bash with the information.”

Ms. Kidder said she thought the brace obtained truthful galore confessions due to the fact that they had really listened to people. “We didn’t commencement putting words successful their mouths,” she said successful the interview. “We gave them a accidental to archer their stories.”

Because of the vigor of the women’s movement, Ms. Kidder said, “The timing was conscionable close for ‘Cagney & Lacey.’” She herself didn’t attraction for the series, reasoning it unrealistic and “too New York,” by which she meant “brusque,” but she was gladsome that it showed women successful nonrecreational roles different than teacher oregon secretary.

Ms. York wasn’t thrilled with it, either, telling The Los Angeles Times successful 1982 that successful its earliest iteration “Cagney & Lacey” depicted “two women trying to bash precisely what men do,” alternatively than showing the peculiar skills and attributes that women could bring to the job.

But the amusement contributed to a nationalist conversation, fueled by enactment favoritism suits and consent decrees, astir whether women could and should beryllium constabulary officers.

Even aft the amusement was overhauled and started winning awards, Ms. York seldom watched it. “She was a parent and a engaged professional,” Judge Ito said successful a telephone interview. “I don’t deliberation watching it was astatine the apical of her to-do list.”

Margaret Ann Mandley was calved connected Aug. 4, 1941, successful Canton, successful northeast Ohio. Her parents, Ralph and Hazel (Moore) Mandley, were florists. They raised their household successful the adjacent colony of Minerva until they moved to the Los Angeles country for amended economical opportunities erstwhile Peggy, arsenic she was known, was 13.

Her archetypal marriage, to Donald York, ended successful divorce. She recovered enactment with the Los Angeles Police Department arsenic a azygous parent of 3 looking to enactment her family, starting arsenic a civilian vigor telephone relation successful 1965. After attending the constabulary academy, she became a policewoman successful 1968.

“She joined policing astatine a clip erstwhile policewomen were faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” Michel Moore, the existent main of the L.A.P.D., said successful a statement.

Back then, women connected the constabulary unit could enactment lone table jobs oregon successful jails. They were assigned the lowest-level detective work, could not beryllium promoted beyond the fertile of sergeant and could supervise lone different women. Ms. York helped alteration the culture. Women are present eligible for each ranks and assignments. Today they marque up 18 percent of officers connected the force, a fig higher than the nationalist mean of little than 13 percent.

Ms. York met Judge Ito successful precocious 1980, erstwhile helium was a lawman territory lawyer successful Los Angeles. Both had been called to the country of a homicide astatine 3 successful the morning. They met “over a dormant body,” helium said, recalling that helium had been impressed with her but that she hadn’t paid him immoderate attention.

They crossed paths a mates of months later, successful 1981, and wrong little than a twelvemonth of their archetypal gathering they were married. Judge Ito went connected to fame successful 1995 arsenic the Superior Court justice presiding implicit the Simpson trial, 1 of the astir sensational of the past century.

In summation to him, Ms. York is survived by 2 sons, David and Dennis York, and a daughter, Cynthia York Shadian, each from her archetypal marriage; 2 brothers, Gregory and Jeff Mandley; 7 grandchildren; and 2 great-grandchildren.



Having received lone a precocious schoolhouse education, Ms. York went to assemblage aft marrying Judge Ito. While continuing her constabulary work, she earned a bachelor’s grade successful absorption successful 1985 from the University of Redlands, eastbound of Los Angeles. She past earned a master’s grade successful nationalist medication from the University of Southern California.

A twelvemonth aft retiring from the L.A.P.D., she was appointed main of the Los Angeles County Office of Public Safety, which provided instrumentality enforcement and information services for each Los Angeles County hospitals, parks and buildings. (It has since been absorbed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.)

Ms. York aboriginal founded a consulting and investigations firm, the Margaret York Company, successful Pasadena. She founded a Salvation Army women’s structure successful Baja, Calif., and served connected the committee of Women Against Gun Violence.

She besides mentored women connected the constabulary force. “She was ever 1 to scope backmost and promote women to ascent the hills she erstwhile climbed alone,” Commander Ruby Flores of the L.A.P. D. said successful an interview.

Despite the strides that women person made, Commander Flores added, the L.A.P.D. has yet to sanction a pistillate chief. “When we spot that happen,” she said, “that volition beryllium Peggy’s legacy.”

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