Arthur “Ott” Cribbs is Arlington's longest serving police chief of 37 years and a law enforcement complex bears his name.

The A.B. Cribbs Law Enforcement Center was named for him in 1989. A number of firsts for the Police Department occurred on his watch. According to information complied in the Harold K. Elliott Police Museum, Arlington was the first city in the area to use two-way radios and in 1937 may have been the first department to initiate breath tests for drinking drivers.

While considered “old school in his approach to law enforcement,” Museum Curator Harold Elliott said Cribbs helped usher in the nation's first computerized photo system for detecting traffic violators.

Cribbs was born on a farm on the south side of what is now east Abram Street. He began his law enforcement career in 1925 as a combination police officer, fireman and ditch digger, earning $85 a month and sleeping in the police station. At that time, Arlington covered just two square miles.

Back then, the police chief was also fire chief. So it wasn't unusual to see Cribbs fighting fires wearing his police badge and sidearm. Elliott describes Cribbs as a no-nonsense chief who felt strongly about crime prevention, particularly among young people. He organized the department's first junior policemen group, which allowed young residents to get involved in law enforcement initiatives.

“They learn respect for the police and law enforcement,” Cribbs once told the Citizen-Journal newspaper. “They don't become delinquents.”
Cribbs was so popular that the city's scheduled retirement at age 65 was waived, giving him another two years on the job.

The lawman also faced tragedy. Cribbs and wife Verna had two sons, Grover Lee and James. James is a successful Arlington attorney. Grover was an all-state football player for Arlington High School who was killed in 1956 at age 21 when his Navy jet crashed near San Diego.

After a number of awards and citations, Cribbs retired in 1971 and died at age 72. Shortly before his retirement, a Citizen-Journal reporter asked Cribbs what advice he'd give to young people contemplating a law enforcement career.

“He's going to have to have a good education, and if he's not planning on staying with it there's no sense in getting started,” he said. “But if a man wants to help the public and help himself, it's a good profession. It's been good to me.”

The Ott Cribbs Public Safety Center is located at 620 W. Division St.