Movie theater operator Arthur Krieger had an unorthodox retirement plan: joining the LAPD
By Martin L. Jacobs
Cruises to Alaska, spoiling the grandkids, and Lipitor; those are things reasonably associated with retirement. Joining the LAPD’s Pacific Division is not, but that’s what Arthur Krieger did.
He was 60 years old.
A Korean War veteran, Krieger returned home to Los Angeles in 1952 and chewed through several jobs before succumbing to the pull of the family business: the Hi-Point miniature golf course on La Cienega Boulevard, now the site of unremarkable office buildings. When the large property burned to cinders in 1970, he sold the land and joined with three other investors to build the Westland Twin Theater at Pico and Westwood boulevards, now the site of the Landmark Theatres. The movie house afforded him a good income — and a few Hollywood stories.
“One day our rep, the guy who booked films for us, calls me up. He tells me, ‘Some guy from Fox is going to come by and ask you to do something. Just say no.’ So, sure enough, this Fox exec comes by and gives me this long spiel on his movie, and I said no. The rep was right; it sounded dreadful. The movie was ‘Star Wars.’ He was offering me an exclusive because another theater had passed on it,” Krieger recalls.
“And there was the night we premiered ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ which turned out to be a popular picture. The stars, Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, had agreed to do a Q&A with the audience after the premiere. So the limo pulls up and the two stars get out and come into the lobby, and I can see right away they are both three sheets to the wind. Completely sloshed. The film ends and they come into the theater and there was exactly one question asked. One of them, I don’t remember which, just went off on a drunken rant. I shuffled them both out the door.”
But those occasional high points were far north of the workaday routine, and choosing the butter flavoring for the popcorn concession wasn’t his idea of excitement.
And there was a memory that haunted him.
One night in 1939, when he was just seven years old and living in rural Pennsylvania, Arthur was in the car with his father when they came upon a drunk driver weaving all over the road. His father was an honorary state trooper, and pulled the car over and arrested the driver. It was one of those seminal moments.
The opportunity to join the LAPD arrived thanks to the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Krieger had asked around and discovered that the police department was subject to the federal law; they could not discriminate against applicants on the basis of age.
In 1992, Krieger applied for a position as a reserve officer, was accepted, and started five months of training at the Police Academy in Elysian Park. He was almost three times as old as most of the other cadets, and “one of the training officers didn’t appreciate my age,” Krieger says with a crooked grin.
It was all going his way. Then came the three-mile run.
“I thought I was going to die right there. My heart was pounding out of my chest,” he admits.
But Krieger was saved by another training officer who ordered him off the course. There was some mercy behind that order. And thanks to that officer and a few others who stuck their necks out for him, he made it through. He went on to work at the LAPD Pacific Division, on the city’s west side.
LAPD reserve officers back then worked two days a month and were only paid a small stipend, but this was never about the money. What drew Krieger and the hundreds of other reserve officers to the job was doing some good, engaging with the community, and maybe a little thirst for adrenaline. And the LAPD was happy to have help protecting the citizens of Los Angeles while saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Reserve officers rode shotgun to regular officers on patrol, and their badges looked the same and carried the same privileges and risks.
Krieger recalled an early patrol experience that almost cut his retirement hobby short:
“It was a domestic disturbance call. We rolled up and found a woman beaten badly, just a mess. We were in the kitchen and had the woman and her husband back-to-back. My partner is questioning her, and I’m talking to the husband. It’s quickly apparent that he’s going to be arrested, so I tell him to turn around and put his hands behind his back. I’m getting the cuffs out, and just then the wife turns around and sees her dear husband being arrested and just goes off. She pulls a knife from somewhere and charges right at me. It was lightning fast. My partner, luckily, was looking up from his notebook and called out, ‘knife!’ He grabbed the woman and wrestled her to the ground before she reached me. It really shook me up. It was three months before I told my wife about it.”
But it wasn’t all about the mean streets. Many of his early years were spent in public outreach; trying to connect with young people on the edge. He recalls those years as the most satisfying.
“I remember showing up at Venice High, in uniform, and you know how all those kids notice that,” he says. “Then we went to this kid’s class and congratulated him for doing good on a test. A kid wouldn’t forget that.”
The wall of Krieger’s home office is covered with commendations for his outreach work, clearly a labor of love.
Krieger recalls visiting Venice Beach in the early 1990s and thinking it looked like a great place to work. He walked in and asked about an assignment there. He got grief: “Why the hell would I hire you, old man,” the sergeant barked. But he did.
“Back then, the LAPD Venice neighborhood office was an old basement room in a building that used to be a live theater. It was just one room with a single cell,” Krieger says.
At the time, the boardwalk was plagued by racial tension.
“They would do this thing every Sunday at about 3 p.m.,” Krieger recalls. “It was like a parade. The Hispanics would line up and march in one direction, while the blacks would line up and march the opposite way. And then when they were face to face, the words started. It didn’t take much to move it to violence. The shopkeepers would just hide, like the Old West.”
The solution was possibly worse than the crime; as the “parade” started each Sunday, police officers would drive patrol cars up and down the boardwalk blaring the sirens.
After almost a decade on patrol and community outreach, a lieutenant whom Krieger greatly admired asked him when he was going to start doing real police work. Arthur took the hint; he studied for the detective exam, passed it, then rotated through the desks: Robbery, Burglary, Auto Theft, Juvenile, and MAC, which was assault crimes.
As a detective he also began to work full time, still for almost no pay. In all, he worked under five chiefs of police: Gates, Williams, Parks, Bratton and Beck.
“They were all different. Did things in their own way,” he explains, “but some things stood out. In the Parker building when Gates was chief, there was a rule that nobody under the rank of lieutenant could go up to his floor, the sixth floor. You just didn’t do it. But when Williams became chief, he didn’t keep that rule. I remember the first time I walked down that sixth floor hallway, and on the wall there was a picture of me with a bunch of kids from one of the outreach programs we ran. The picture had been there all through Gates’ time, but I couldn’t go and seeit. Kind of ironic. But Gates was good. He protected his men. They all had their own way.”
Arthur Krieger retired from his retirement in 2012, after almost 20 years with the LAPD. These days he enjoys yoga to stay fit, and, appropriately, spends a lot of time spoiling the grandkids and great-grandkids.
Martin L. Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @ML_Jacobs_Venice