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Detective Arthur P. Dietrich is a fictional character on the TV series Barney Miller. He was a police officer assigned to the New York City Police Department's 12th Detective Squad, and was played by Steve Landesberg. He originally appeared in the show's second season, and was slowly phased into the show over the third season, becoming a full-time regular by season 4..

Dietrich (a native of Allentownmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker) has a highly intellectual approach to life, as well as an ability to relate almost any event to an obscure sociological, literary or philosophical topic. For example, he once made a special weekend trip to Pennsylvania to attend the Goethe Festival, from which he returned with the quip, "Take my soul - please!"

Dietrich's deadpan and unflappable know-it-all persona proves to be a major irritant to Det. Ron Harris, with whom he is partnered in stake-outs and other situations in which they find themselves in close quarters.

Dietrich's varied educational background is a regular focus of humor. In an exchange with a psychologist on the condition of a young man facing arrest, the psychologist condescendingly asks, "Do you have a Ph.D. in psychology?" to which Dietrich deadpans, "Yes." The psychologist then angrily replies, "Got it on ya?"

Dietrich apparently also has extensive knowledge of human anatomy, history, physics and engineering. In an episode with a pregnant woman who only speaks German, Captain Miller looks lost until Dietrich begins fluently conversing with her. "You speak German?" Barney asks. "Don't you?" Dietrich responds.

In another episode, the detectives dismiss the claims of a man they've arrested that an item found in his home is a nuclear weapon. Dietrich then enters the squad room and, seeing the item, casually says, "Where'd we get the atomic bomb?"

In one episode, it was revealed that Arthur Dietrich, before becoming a police officer, had been an actor and a teacher. Dietrich said he had also been a lumberjack and a beekeeper, though this might have been a joke. He revealed that ultimately he decided to become a cop because he could have been good at a variety of jobs but only as a police officer could he be the best there is.

The seemingly inhuman breadth of Dietrich's knowledge also sometimes results in questions about his past and his future. In one episode, the department decides that all of the detectives must submit to lie detector tests. When Dietrich is examined and asked a routine question as to when and where he was born, he responds, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," the famous opening words of Star Wars’ scrolling prologue. When the lie detector indicates that über-calm Dietrich is telling the truth, the department decides to scuttle the program completely. The other detectives view Dietrich with curiosity and suspicion for the remainder of the episode until Dietrich ultimately gives the actual date and place of his birth, adding, "I thought it needed to be said."

In another episode, a man arrested and claiming to be a time traveler hears someone call Dietrich by his last name. The “time traveler” stops and asks if he is Arthur Dietrich. After Dietrich confirms that he is, the “time traveler” tells him it is an honor and asks to shake his hand implying that Dietrich would be famous sometime in the future. The other detectives overhear the exchange and look on in amazement.

Dietrich has a dry and sometimes teasing sense of humor. In an episode where the door to the men's room is removed, Fish is unable to wait; while he is in the washroom, Dietrich stops and offers a casual greeting at the door, much to the annoyance of Fish as evidenced in his slow exit from the washroom later.

In an episode featuring an immigration official, the official, showing off his extensive knowledge of various ethnicities' physical characteristics, correctly guesses that Dietrich's mother is French. Dietrich is then enigmatic in reply to the officer's question about his father, revealing only that "He's dead", prior to which point "He was alive".


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