What We Know about San Jose’s Next Police Chief, Eddie Garcia

Eddie Garcia wears his heart on his sleeve, not far from the three stars that line each side of his collar. It’s for this reason San Jose’s assistant chief of police, who’s set to take over as the city’s interim top cop in January, could very well end up becoming a charismatic figurehead for the San Jose Police Department.

But the judgment of SJPD’s second-in-command came into question earlier this year, when San Jose Inside published emails by him and other top command staff venting frustration with their civilian bosses at City Hall and scoffing at gift policies. A follow-up request for more emails was initially denied by the department, which said the messages were personal in nature and their release would cause more harm than good. An appeal was filed, arguments about transparency were made and a committee consisting of Mayor Sam Liccardo and three council members unanimously agreed with San Jose Inside: The emails should be made public after proper redactions of certain personal information.

We reviewed approximately 400 emails, discussed them with Garcia over coffee and came to several conclusions:

1. Garcia had nothing to hide

The department’s decision to block the release of the emails was purely reflexive after earlier reports. Garcia admitted in an interview that he was embarrassed by some of the previously reported messages and added that they do not reflect his true character.

“I understand I need to be an example for the department and city,” Garcia said.

2. The next chief really loves him some football

The vast majority of emails SJPD wanted to block related to a Pop Warner football team Garcia coached in 2014, as well as the year-round sports schedule of his children. A devoted father and coach, Garcia often used his city email account to coordinate practices and out-of-town games with his spouse and other parents and coaches. This could be a stretch, but he considers his involvement in youth sports to be an extension of his SJPD duties.

“I think it shed a very good light on the department and my work never suffered,” Garcia said.

3. Official business was incorrectly excluded

Garcia invited his friends and parents of players to email or text him at any time, which at times meshed personal greetings with crime tips. This resulted in some messages being inappropriately excluded from a prior request.

In one message, a parent talks about their children attending the same school before alerting Garcia to an embezzlement scam at Samsung. Police say an arrest warrant has been issued for the former employee, Connie H. Kim, who is suspected of stealing $14,000 through fraudulent expense reports.

There also appears to have been a telecommunications attack in July 2014 near Bellarmine Prep’s campus. Fiber optic lines were cut, causing “one hundred times more damage” than the PG&E Metcalf substation attack. It doesn’t appear anyone was ever arrested, but the FBI did get involved. Brian Adams, a spokesman for Bellarmine, said that the sabotage had “no impact at all” on the campus beyond slow Internet speed for a day or so.

4. No more mixing business with pleasure

Garcia created a Gmail account and he’s instructed friends and associates to use that account unless it relates to SJPD business. “It’s something that didn’t register,” Garcia said. “It obviously registers now.”

5. Like it or not, he’s a bro

Garcia can change stars but not his stripes. He’s the guy who calls people “bro.” He’s the guy who freely tosses around exclamation points and wink faces in emails and texts. He likes the word “Geezus!” Esquivel has steadied the ship in hard times; Garcia will be tasked with boosting morale going forward.

UPDATE: Here’s the city’s recap of how the whole process worked.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to josh@metronews.com or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

16 Comments

  1. Chief Garcia will be one of the most gracious and entertaining Police Chief in San Jose’s history.

    He is very receptive and honorable with the public-His Officers can speak for themselves.

    He and other high level city administrators have learned an important lesson in Public Records 101-BEWARE… emails ARE Public Records.

    I hope Chief Garcia will lambast the dunderheaded Council routinely, for not adequately funding the Police Department with reference for the need to; increase pay and benefits (housing alloances, complete uniform and equipment costs, medical retirements for all Police Officers-and what ever else the POA says they need); to be able to recruit and retain Police Officers without having to resort to; “Dumbing down” the Police Department and continue to operate as a Regional Training Facility for outside Police agencies.

    I look forward to Chief Garcia ruthlessly crushing the criminal element and making us laugh heartily during the process.

    David S. Wall

    • Mr. Wall,

      While the reporters obviously didn’t find the “Nixon tapes” or “Hillary’s missing emails”, something that they were undoubtedly hoping for, they found enough that because it has hit the local media, where innuendo is king, I believe that it has damaged Garcia enough that he will be ineffective as a chief.

      Imagine if after a spirited speech worthy of Churchill or Patrick Henry, where Garcia chastises the council and demands resources for his department and that his officers sorely need, imagine that the first response from the mayor or the council is something completely deflating such as: “Hey, bro, how are those 49’ers doing? Did you get good tickets this season? Maybe you can email me an answer later…bro” With that potential response, or one like it, hanging over his head, (and the fact that police chiefs fear embarrassment more than grim death) how is Garcia going to get tough with the council as a police chief or a leader, often must do? Garcia is under the control of the mayor and the council already. The police department and the City should save time and just turn the operation of SJPD over to the mayor and city council now and just run it by committee. They are already handling labor negotiations by ballot box anyway.

      • Your argument is sound. The email issue is far from over and the issue is on next week’s Rules and Open Government Committee agenda. The city only redacted 85 out of the 400 emails that remain. This issue alone merits closer scrutinity. Mr. Vossbrink “selected” the aforementioned 85 emails as being “representative” of the entire collection.” I don’t buy this position for a minute but, I also don’t trust SJ Inside to report the entire truth. The SJ Inside is nothing more than a bastardized variation of the worthless San Jose Mercury News.

        You are correct again that the Mayor and Council support and to some extent control the Assistant Chief. It is no surprise the Mayor wants the Assistant Chief to be selected Chief. The Mayor and his cronies continue to surround the wagons around the Assistant Chief and it is almost a certainty the Assistant Chief will be selected if nothing else surfaces concerning the poor decisions the Assistant Chief has made to date. However, the public selection process is still in its infancy and the dice are still rolling along. The Assistant Chief’s selection could easily “crap-out” over the email issue.

        There are plenty of other command grade San Jose Police Officers who would have not made the mistakes the Assistant Chief has made which further serves to illustrate support your correct argument that the Assistant Chief will be “ineffective.” And with the email issue still unresolved and the remaining 315 emails hanging in limbo, until Wednesday’s RULES meeting concludes, this may support an argument that the Assistant Chief is already, “ineffective” and “tainted.”

        Now there have been additional developments since my post on (09.24.15). The appeals process for; the email “selection process”, the SJ Inside’s amendment to the original request and the city’s position that they met the SJ Inside’s request and the matter is resolved; appeared Friday afternoon (09.25.15) with the city’s posting of the Rules and Open Government Committee’s Agenda for (09.30.15). The remaining 315 emails are still at issue but, the skullduggery to suppress the emails serves only to condemn the city and the Public Record Act process. So much for “transoarency” in San Jose’s municipal government.

        ***All it would take is one San Jose Police Officer to request that I look iinto this matter and I’ll file a “Request for Public Record Information” for all 400 emails in question and I’ll glady do it and “post” the results and or intererences with the PRI request, if any.

        I am sick and tired of Council, the pissants in the Office of the City Manager interfering with the San Jose Police Department. Politics and Police work never mix nor should there be continued attempts to do so.

        As to the labor relations issue, in my opinion the SJ POA should not have any dealings with the Office of Employee Relations. The 8% Police Officers recieved is nothing and the 5% “signing bonus” is a slap to Police Officers faces. My advice, all San Jose Police Officers should continue the exodus. Risking life and or limb for this P.O.S. city is not worth it. Especially with this two tiered sh*t.

        J.S. Robillard-Thanks for lighting a fire under my a**!

        Keep up the good work and read the PUBLIC RECORD (RULES AGENDA, ITEM E).

        David S. Wall

  2. There was quite a lot of speculation and innuendo in the previous reports about the emails and denial of requests to release more… you were told there was NOTHING relevant yet sounded your usual “cover-up alarm.” Now you get your request filled , review the emails sit down with the A/C and after all that it turns out there was NOTHING relevant.

    • I was in attendance at “Rules” during this fiasco. The city closed ranks around the Assistant Chief as if he has pictures of Council doing kinky acts with barnyard animals. The Assistant Chief erred in the use of the city email system.

      What is germane here is that the SJ Inside was at “Rules” and JK was allowed five minutes or more to speak. I was given just two (2).

      Believe what you will but personally I don’t trust SJ Inside with their recantations, access and the use of Public Records to further thier financial gains and or “there was NOTHING relevant.”

      You and anyone else for that manner can file a Request for Public Record Information and recieve the same documents SJ Inside recieved.

      Good job Meyer Weed and come to “Rules.”

      David S. Wall

  3. It greatly torments me to see someone who has arranged his entire career so as to evade patrol work, referred to in the media as the city’s “top cop”. If you were to ask acting chief Garcia how much time he actually spent working the street as a beat patrol officer, he will likely be evasive rather than admit that he fled that patrol car just as fast as he could after spending the least amount of time in it as possible. Out of a career of over 20 years, Garcia has probably only spent about 3-4 years (if that long) in a patrol car, as a beat patrol officer, handling calls for service. All the (patrol-avoidant) specialized unit experience he accumulated may look impressive on a resume but doesn’t alleviate the fact that when it comes to experience as an actual street cop, Garcia’s credentials are sorely lacking.

    Yet, who can blame him? The patrol officer is the work horse of any police department. While Garcia might try to dupe the gullible into believing that he faced the most fearsome danger extant while serving in various (patrol-avoidant) specialized units, Patrol is where the vast majority of risk is and where violent encounters most often occur. Patrol officers are the most often attacked, the most often injured and every SJPD officer who has been feloniously slain in the line of duty was killed while working patrol. No wonder aspiring Chief Garcia fled the scene of that patrol car as soon as he could. He is obviously more comfortable spending his time sitting in an air-conditioned office, sending sarcastic emails and fabricating excuses for his complimentary football tickets, than being out on the street chasing down an armed felon who just robbed a convenience store and pistol-whipped the clerk.

    While acting chief Garcia takes advantage of every opportunity to glad-hand with the local political elites, some patrol officer is dealing with the city’s other “flowers of humanity”; junkies perverts, rapists, the violent mentally ill people, the drunk with tuberculosis who coughs in his face, the dope addict with hepatitis and bleeding, ulcerated sores on his arms and whose blood is now all over the cop’s hands, face and uniform because the junkie chose to fight rather than be arrested.

    While the chief is walking a council person or one of her staffers to their car after a community meeting because she’s so scared and he’s so charming, some beat cop gets to walk down a dark alley or into an underground parking garage at night, by himself, due to short staffing, because someone just reported hearing screaming and a gunshot somewhere near the fresh blood stain on the sidewalk.

    While the chief is having Christmas dinner with his family, some patrol officer, with 102 degree fever who, because of chronic short staffing, dared not call in sick on Christmas Eve, is standing by, waiting for the coroner to respond to a cheap motel where some poor little mom and her 3 and 5 year old kids died trying to keep warm by curling up around an improperly vented gas heater.

    While the chief is out there at a grade school community meeting presentation, wowing little kids and charming their teachers and parents, some beat cop is out there dealing with starved, bruised, and bleeding kids and their alcoholic parents who haven’t washed the kid’s clothes or cleaned the mold out of the refrigerator in months.

    Anticipating the tedious, “oh he’s just disgruntled” dismissive response, I can assure you all that I am not. Garcia has never had the opportunity to discipline me, or prevent me from doing or achieving anything I wished. I am saying this only because the media has mischaracterized chief Garcia. He should be referred to by an appropriate job title, perhaps Chief Bureaucrat; Chief Administrator or if one wishes to be nasty (albeit accurate) Chief Patrol-Avoidant. Please don’t call him anyone’s “top cop”. That title, as well as the respect attached to it, is something he has not earned.

  4. I worked with Eddie Garcia in patrol . To try and characterize him as a coward is flat-out wrong. We damn near had to tie him down on hot calls. He has faults like the rest of us but being a coward isn’t one of them.

    • If Robillard was trying to characterize Eddie Garcia as a coward, then I completely disagree with him. That description in no way applies to Eddie. But is that really what Robillard was saying?

      It is certainly true that Eddie has spent very little time working patrol, but that can be said of almost anyone who reaches the highest ranks of SJPD or any other large police department. Reaching the top is all about resume building and patrol work, apparently, doesn’t look good on a resume. Many times I’ve heard a Chief stand up in briefing and talk about how patrol is “the backbone of the department.” While the statement is true, I always find it ironic that the person making statement has typically always made getting out of patrol their top priority. The danger with this system is that, by the time anyone reaches the top, it’s been years since they were involved with the nuts and bolts of policing. I think this often leads to a disconnect between those who are trying to lead and those who are supposed to follow them.

      The greater danger, however, lies in the other part of the path to the top SJPD: the requirement that your #1 priority be pleasing those above you, as opposed to doing what’s right or taking care of your family or those beneath you. Sometimes, very capable people hit a brick wall in their careers because they had the nerve to tell the person above them that they disagree, or they can’t take an assignment because it wouldn’t work well for their family. Sometimes a leader has to stand up to the person above them, and sometimes that means a Chief needs to stand up to the Mayor or City Council. It’s been a few years since we’ve actually had a leader who was willing to do that, at least publicly. I blame the system for trying to weed that quality out of candidates.

      Eddie Garcia is going to take the reins at a critical time for SJPD. The department will be attempting to regain some of what has been lost during the Measure B fiasco. A strong leader is needed, and I hope that Eddie can be that leader. To lead, however, he needs to put the people of San Jose and SJPD first, above the needs of the Mayor and City Council. Yes, he must work with those people, but pleasing them can’t be his first priority. He may, at some point, have to disagree with his friend Sam Liccardo. I hope he’s up to it. Chief of Police is a title that’s bestowed. True leadership is something which must be earned.

    • Mr. Brownlee,

      I was absolutely, unequivocally NOT calling into question chief Garcia’s personal valor. I don’t know enough about that particular aspect of his character to make such a judgment. Don’t confuse the term “cowardice” with the term “laziness”. If you don’t understand the difference, I can’t help you. You mentioned having to “tie him down on hot calls”. Was that to hold him back from going to the call ( so as to fabricate and foster the appearance of his eagerness) or to prevent him from leaving the scene of the call once it became apparent that a mundane task or drudgery, (such as taking a report, interviewing an obnoxious witness, or arresting and booking a filthy drunk who had just vomited on himself), was needed? It seems the latter is more likely to have been the case than the former.

      What I was calling into question was Garcia’s lack of street experience due to his record of deliberately avoiding working in patrol. His nearly trademark condescending arrogance toward those in patrol, who he views as being “stuck” there because they are somehow not bright enough to escape as he did, has not earned him the respect of his subordinates and without this reciprocal respect, effective leadership is not possible.

      Simply put, aspiring Chief Garcia has always been, not a cop, but a “Golden Boy”. It is often befuddling to observe how certain people always seem to be the ones who are promoted quickly and who always manage to get all the high profile or “glamorous” assignments even though they are no more intelligent, no more qualified and no more deserving of such things than anyone else.

      Not to mention minimizing his exposure to patrol, Garcia was and is extremely adept at endearing himself to those who can do him the most amount of good. Obviously, he also realized early on that it is always better to look good than to be good. As long as he presented the façade of someone who could do the job, but then never really did anything, he could never be criticized, blamed or have his image tarnished if something went wrong; while at the same time positioning himself to take some or all of the credit if all went well. The fact that he was caught in the (non-issue) email affair and the football ticket situation is a surprising aberration and one he is not likely to repeat. However, the reason for that is the protection of his own image, and not for the benefit of the SJPD.

      To protect and foster his image, Garcia also developed mastery of “Criticism by the Uninvolved”. This procedure involved insinuating himself into an important case or project, then waiting for someone else who is actually doing the work to screw something up. His goal then was always to immediately point out the mistake and proclaim how much better he would have handled it (had he done anything).

      Garcia was, or at least closely associated himself with, some of the department’s best “Masters of Exclusion”. Due to their ability to endear themselves to the right people, it is usually a simple matter for members of the “exclusion group” to wheedle their way into positions in prestigious Units. Once there, they quickly find a reason to exclude others and will work diligently to control entry into that Unit, especially by potential promotional rivals, The “Golden Boy” crowd strives to give their superiors the impression that clique members are uniquely different from others. This is an absolute tradition in certain “glamorous” assignments (most of which appear on Garcia’s resume) and helps explain why time spent in these Units is disproportionately found on the résumés of commanders who are mediocre yet surprisingly popular.

      Garcia was also well known for “Joining the Chorus”. Whenever something controversial occurs, it never takes long to figure out where the command staff stands on the issue. Garcia never showed a reluctance to join the “command staff chorus” at the whisper level, making sure to communicate upwards that he concurred with the “wise leadership” of whoever was the current Chief, with the deliberate intention of setting himself apart from potential promotional competition whose identities are inferred, but seldom stated. Similarly at promotion time, Garcia never failed to feign support for even the worst of promotions. In so doing, he reinforced his understanding and the belief that merit is not necessarily a concept worthy of support.

      Mr. Brownlee, why don’t you be chief? We certainly couldn’t do any worse.

      • “Mr. Brownlee,… chief? We certainly couldn’t do any worse.”

        Cowboy could clean this City up blindfolded, hobbled with both hands tied behind his back and hung upside down before some of the slugs got their car loaded and gassed and washed and detailed and had tires rotated then had breakfast, coffee, lunch checked their voicemail , returned messages from last week checked the email then went 10-8 long enough to head back to the barn to unload to make sure they were off before swings briefing started.

        • Mr. Weed,

          You made my point for me. You also forgot to mention that Mr. Brownlee would be the type of officer who would not only handle his own calls and assignments but would volunteer (without even having to be asked first) to help out anyone else who was being bombarded or overloaded with all those calls for service that have a tendency to stack up when a police department has only 1 or 2 officers handling situations for which any properly staffed department would be sending 4 or 5 units to respond.

          That is the point. Mr. Brownlee works (!) and helps out his fellow officers. That’s what a “top cop” does. Officers see that. They remember that. They are inspired by that. They respect that. Officers also notice when the reverse of that is true as well, and their reaction is the opposite of those things mentioned. This is why I have serious doubts about Garcia’s ability to exert leadership, even if he might be a good manager or administrator. Managers “manage things”, they do not “inspire people”. Only a leader can do the latter and only a true leader can inspire subordinates to exert their maximum discretionary efforts towards the goals that the leader defines. That is what a leader does. He trusts and respects his subordinates and they trust and respect him. A leader works on behalf of those who work for him. A leader does not roll on his back with all 4 feet in the air rather than risk annoying the mayor and the city council by demanding resources that his officers sorely need. A leader values his subordinates, he does not try to distance himself from them and the work they do, as quickly as he can.

          I have to disagree slightly with what Mr. Pete M said. While many police administrators do lose touch the higher up the chain of command they rise (and the lower their street experience was when they started), there are some others, the best of them, who still remain engaged and still remain cops at heart.

          I know of at least one instance where a deputy chief responded, without being sent, to an incident where a homeowner reported that an officer was fighting with a violent parolee, and was rolling around on the ground, through someone’s garden and they were throwing each other through fence boards almost as in an old Western or a scene from “The Quiet Man”. This deputy chief arrived at the scene and literally skidded sideways to a stop, then ran up, pulled the suspect, by the neck, off, then (justifiably) pummeled the suspect senseless and into custody. This deputy chief then did the unbelievable. He wrote his own report (!!!) rather than simply directing the officer to do it, as would be the case with the vast majority of supervisors above the rank of sergeant. It’s easy to respect a leader like that.

          It’s difficult to respect someone who wrote so very few reports even as an officer and then fled the “salt mine” of patrol as quickly as he could, as was the case with Garcia. A deputy chief like the one mentioned in the above incident could justifiably and rightly be referred to as a “top cop”. Sadly, from all that I know of him, Chief Garcia cannot stake claim to that appellation whereas someone like Brownlee probably could. (And Mr. Weed, in your comments, you are not exaggerating; nor am I). Although, of course, it will never happen,. Brownlee for chief, we could do worse, and if Garcia becomes chief, we will.

          • Totally understand… and so there is no confusion I don’t believe you where calling the A/C a coward and I don’t believe he is. (Back in they day it would be “REMF – or Rear Echelon Mo Fo – if you wondered where a guy “was” the answer would be “in the rear with the gear.” …and a [1] sarcastic response or [2] valid interview question would be [1] Oh Yeah?] [2] What did you do during the war?)

            Anyway … I’m happy we are not in conflict. Have a great day!

  5. If we accept cowardice to mean a lack of bravery and understand bravery as being courageous in behavior or character, then determining whether a particular police chief, command officer, or supervisor has demonstrated cowardice when confronted with difficulty or opposition becomes a simple matter of examining their history. And because difficulty and opposition are part and parcel of supervising police officers and administering a department, the historical sample of any but the newest of supervisors should be telling.

    Of the past police chiefs of this city I don’t remember any, since the despotic Joe McNamara, ever demonstrating anything close to courage in office. The five chiefs of the last quarter century have collectively failed to achieve the primary mission of the police chief, which is to provide the public the best police department possible. On the critical matter of staffing, not a one of them ever took the kind of hard stand necessary to drum up the public support needed to convince both city hall and the POA to make the concessions necessary to give the public the department it deserved (this despite their knowledge that understaffing was tantamount to gambling with the lives of citizens and officers).

    On the equally critical matter of professional respect — the kind due anyone who’s been tested, trained, and sworn to risk his/her life serving the public; the kind necessary for an officer to be rarely opposed in his lawful duties, these alleged leaders of men, all well-practiced at defending their own actions, have consistently failed to defend their own troops by taking a loud and proud public stand against the reckless and politically-motivated stereotyping of their officers as racist thugs. Quite the contrary: instead of challenging accusers to make even a single case our kowtowing chiefs have treated the slanderers to friendship, cherry-picked race data, and a one-for-one trade agreement of unsubstantiated anecdote for public mea culpa.

    When you realize that taking a courageous stand in the face of wrongdoing is a regular task for the street cop facing mortal danger then you have to wonder why this traditionally revered posture has essentially disappeared from the safe and sheltered command ranks. The answer to that can be found in the evolution of the professional police chief. Where it was once the norm for a chief to rise up from the ranks and lead the department to which he was loyal until his career end, the emergence of modern pensions made it possible for a chief to retire at a relatively young age, sell his experience and loyalty (to his new employer, not his new department), work there long enough to earn a second pension (and a reputation for politically-correct spinelessness), and, if possible, land a third position before ending his career with an annual pension total closing in on the half-million dollar a year mark.

    Money can make a lot of things disappear. Courage is no exception. Cowardice is a career strategy.

    The modern professional police chief makes his living selling illusions, not reality, and the market for illusions has never been higher. A police chief who can convince the leaders of a crime besieged city that his/her unique administrative approach can undo the damage done by generations of welfare dependence, absentee fathers, substance abuse, and the glorification of the criminal lifestyle, is a chief who is peddling the illusion that those crime-producing problems can be cured by changing the conduct, composition, and mentality of the police department. In other words, the modern professional police chief sells snake oil for a living, and for cities like Oakland, Richmond, Salinas, and, perhaps, even San Jose, a good dose of snake oil goes down a lot easier than does the depressing realization that our cities are filling up with people who are as unfixable as they are uncivilized.