Firefighters and police officers have always shared a common bond, defined by their public calling. Walter R. Kreps answered both calls, serving first as a hose man for the Los Angeles Fire Department, before joining the LAPD in 1910.
Kreps was born in Michigan, on August 29, 1887. By 1910, he had been married to his wife Fanchon, for about two years. The couple had a son Kenneth, who was a few months old. The family lived at 2190 West 28th Street. The Kreps family later moved to 235½ Hill Street and lived there when Walter joined the police department on December 27, 1910.
By March of 1916, Kreps had left the patrol foot beats and joined the speed squad, working as a motor officer. The speed squad was comprised of motor officers on Indian motorcycles who zipped through traffic, chasing down scofflaws running afoul of the strict traffic ordinances. As a member of the speed squad, Kreps wore a tweed riding hat and coat along with leather riding gloves and boots. Members of the speed squad would also serve as quick response units rolling to calls for service in outlying areas of the city.
Kreps was assigned to the old East Side station, which was located where the old Lincoln Heights Jail is today on Avenue 19. On March 28, 1916, Kreps was leaving the station responding to a call in Highland Park, which was then largely rural farmland. As Kreps rode south onto Avenue 20, where various railroad lines converged, a police vehicle (or machine as they were called then) was attempting to pass a slower moving in the same vicinity. The police machine, driven by police chauffer, Arthur Boycott, was returning to East Side station from a radio call.
When Boycott passed on the right of a slower moving vehicle, he collided with Kreps’ motorcycle which was travelling southbound on Avenue 20 near the railroad tracks. This was some forty years before motorcycle helmet use came into being. As a result, Kreps suffered major injuries including a fractured skull and hip along with a serious laceration to his face. He was quickly taken to Receiving Hospital on First and Spring Streets where police surgeons worked feverishly to save his life. Kreps succumbed to his injuries and became the first motor officer to be killed in the line of duty. He was also the first LAPD officer to die in a traffic collision involving another police vehicle.
He was survived by his 29-year-old wife Fanchon and six-year-old son Kenneth.
Lieutenant J. A. Macias, #27710, LAPD