After nearly 28 years as an officer in the San Jose Police Department, Chief of Police Eddie Garcia is stepping down on Saturday, Dec. 12. Garcia, who moved to San Jose from Puerto Rico as a young child, served as police chief since early 2016.
"I was a Puerto Rican kid that came to San Jose, and I didn't know how to speak English. I ended up being the chief of police for the 10th largest city in the country. I'm humbled … and forever thankful for the opportunity this city and department gave me," Garcia said in a statement when he announced his retirement in August.
Garcia is in the running for the police chief job in Dallas, Texas, Mercury News reported. Dallas officials approached him after they heard he was planning to retire as the top cop in San Jose. If they offer Garcia the job, he would be taking over the ninth-largest city in the US; one that is also marred by the police response to social justice protests.
Garcia is one of seven candidates left in the running for the leadership of the Dallas Police Department. Similar to San Jose, Dallas is experiencing a rise in homicides. Garcia is one of two candidates from outside Texas, according to WFAA in Dallas.
"It has challenges. It has violent crime challenges. The goal of getting everyone rowing in the same direction is appealing. I know it's going to be difficult. You're definitely going to be earning your salary," Garcia said in an interview with Mercury News.
Garcia announced his retirement in August after delaying the announcement after a controversial response to violent protests in downtown San Jose. Rubber bullets and teargas used by officers felt excessive to some protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement after the police killing of George Floyd.
Garcia said he learned from the response and believes the department is on its way to being a better force. "I'm proud of our response, but did we make mistakes? We absolutely did make mistakes, but we'll get better," he said to Mercury News.
As police chief, Garcia's legacy is fondly remembered by the mayor, SJPD officers, and community leaders. "Chief Garcia as a person really had a heart for the community. I believe he cared, and worked to see a number of changes that were beneficial," Pastor Jason Reynolds of Emmanuel Baptist Church said.
KPIX reported that San Jose officers' rubber bullets hit innocent bystanders, which led to a ban from the mayor. Despite their disagreements on the use of rubber bullets, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo had high praise for Garcia.
"History will remember Chief Eddie Garcia in the same way I've seen him embraced at countless community meetings: as a dynamic, exuberant leader who gave his heart and soul to his hometown," Liccardo said in a statement to NBC Bay Area.
Liccardo told NBC Bay Area that a crowning achievement for Garcia's time as chief was his ability to build up a police force that was in "desperate straits" after a significant number of officers left the force due to pension reform.
The new president of the NAACP in California, Rick Callendar, is sad to see Garcia leave San Jose. "It's a huge loss for San Jose and gain for Dallas if he got selected … Dallas definitely needs someone who knows how to work with communities of color who implements that into decision making," he told NBC Bay Area.
The city of Dallas expected to decide on a candidate before the end of the year.