Editor's note: This blog post first appeared on the California Police Chiefs Association Website.
When Joseph Kreins arrived at the Sausalito (Calif.) Police Department every day during his tenure as police chief from July 2001 to December 2004, he'd glance at the wall and say two words:
The smiling face of his father, Edward, is among the former police chiefs whose portraits hang in the station's lobby.
The Kreins made history as the state's first father-and-son team of police chiefs of the same city.
Recently, a second father-son duo achieved that same rare distinction when Andrew Bidou became police chief of Benicia, another waterfront city in the California Bay Area, in January 2011. Bidou's father, Pierre, served as police chief of Benicia for 16 years before leaving the department in 1992 to go into city politics and to pursue other ventures.
The four men say being police chiefs of the same cities is cool and a source of pride. They also say that because law enforcement has changed so much over the last few decades, their jobs have little in common beyond the title.
"This is not my father's world," says Joe Kreins, 55, police chief of Novato, in northern Marin County, since 2004. "It's a different world."
And, perhaps even more surprisingly, both sons say their fathers didn't push them into policing - and that they never plotted to run the same law enforcement agencies their fathers did.
It just kind of happened, they say.
"If you would have told me a few years ago that I'd be police chief of Benicia, I would have laughed," says Andrew Bidou, 43. "This wasn't part of the plan."
Pierre Bidou, 74, joined the Benicia PD as a patrol officer in 1964 and worked his way up to chief of police in 1976. At that time, Andrew, the youngest of six children, was just 7 years old.
While his father was establishing a stellar career that included investigating two deaths that eventually were identified as the first of seven confirmed victims of the Zodiac Killer, who struck in 1968 and 1969, Andrew was enjoying sports and going to school.
He decided, right after high school, to join the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
In 1989, two years into his Marine Corps service, Bidou became an officer with the Newark Police Department - where he worked his way up to captain. In 2000, he and his wife moved back to his hometown of Benicia to focus on raising a family. From there, Bidou commuted about 60 miles each way to his job in Newark.
When the position of deputy police chief of Benicia became available in 2008, Bidou jumped at the opportunity - mostly thinking of his wife and two children, and on making life a lot easier for all of them.
He wasn't, he says, focused on following in his father's footsteps. But he did just that when he was appointed Benicia's chief of police on Jan. 25, 2011.
"What Andrew did, he did on his own," says Pierre Bidou, who lives in Benicia and meets his son every week for dinner. "He's a dedicated professional, a caring young man, and he's very smart. I'm very proud of him, and am very proud of what he's done."
Andrew Bidou not only wears the same hat his father last wore more than two decades ago; but he's also the boss of his older brother, Christopher, 48, a sergeant with the Benicia PD. Another brother, Matthew, 53, is a retired correctional officer with the Solano County Sheriff's Department.
Andrew says his job is very different from when his father was police chief. There's much more community outreach, more problem solving, and, at a time when social media is all the rage, there's a more proactive and visible aspect to the job - for example, ongoing "Coffee With the Chief" meetings with residents of Benicia, whose population has grown to about 30,000 from about 5,400 in 1963, a year after his father joined the Benicia PD.
"The community expects a lot more from its police department than just putting the bad guys away," says Andrew Bidou, he oversees 36 sworn officers compared to about 30 his father used to administer.
A Father's Pride
Edward S. Kreins, 77, began his law enforcement career with the Hayward PD in June 1956 and took his first position as chief of police with Sausalito in 1966, serving as the department's top cop for nearly three years. He went on to positions as police chief of Pleasant Hill and Beverly Hills, where he later served as city manager. Ed Kreins, who now lives in Nipomo, retired in 1990 but has remained active in law enforcement-consulting roles for cities and school districts.
Joe Kreins says he planned to go into marketing - not law enforcement. But when he was 23, and working at a bowling alley, he paid a visit to the Sausalito PD to say hello to friends he met through his father - and was encouraged to fill out an application.
His fiancée filled the application out for him, launching a 32-year career in law enforcement that included 16 years with the Concord PD before he became police chief of Sausalito in 2001. It was a homecoming for Kreins, who was a police officer in Sausalito from 1980 to 1985 before joining the Concord PD.
Both Joe Kreins and his father served roughly three-year terms as top cops of the same law enforcement agency.
Ed Kreins says he encouraged his three sons to pursue whatever careers they wanted.
Oldest son Paul, 59, is a professional bowler and bowling consultant after a stint in professional baseball, and youngest son Ed, 54, also went into law enforcement, recently retiring as a captain at the Beverly Hills PD. As a law enforcement consultant, Ed Kreins says he occasionally taps the expertise of Joe and Ed - and that he was proud when Joe became police chief of Sausalito.
"I thought it was fantastic," he says. "I was very proud of him, and told him not to criticize my old policies too much."
Ed Kreins recognizes how different his son's job is as police chief compared to when he was in charge. "Back then," he says, "we pretty much had a ticket book and badge and went to work, learning by the seat of our pants."
Now, police officers are more educated and undergo extensive screening and training, and are technologically savvy as well as a lot more community oriented, Ed Kreins says. He believes the job of police chief is more demanding today than it was when he managed a department. Budget tightening has only added to the challenge of managing personnel and other duties, he says.
Still, in many ways, being police chief of Sausalito - a low-crime city patrolled by 25 sworn officers - isn't too tough, Joe Kreins says.
"It's kind of like being the chief of Disneyland," he says with a laugh.
But when problems rise beyond the goofy and mickey-mouse levels, Joe Kreins sometimes will consult his father.
Says the second-generation police chief: "He's always been a great mentor and someone there to listen to and to bounce ideas off of."
Greg Hardesty covers general news, courts, and business for the Orange County Register and works as a freelance writer in his spare time.