Chief Eddie Garcia announced today that he plans to retire in December after 28 years with the San Jose Police Department.
A Puerto Rico native, Garcia got his start with SJPD in 1992, working on the agency’s Narcotics Enforcement Team. Over the years, he rose through the ranks until he was promoted to assistant chief of police in 2013. When former Chief Larry Esquivel retired in 2016, Garcia was appointed as the department’s top cop.
According to the Mercury News, which on Monday broke the story of Garcia’s retirement, the chief has been planning to call it quits for some time now. But he reportedly held off on making an announcement due to the George Floyd protests that kicked off in late May and lasted for much of the following month.
“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,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “He brought this police department back from the brink, rebuilding our officers’ ranks, their morale, and most importantly, their faith in themselves and their mission. I wish him all the best as he moves into this next chapter of his life.”
San Jose Councilman Sergio Jimenez told San Jose Inside that Garcia was “an accessible chief unlike we’ve ever had before.”
“I think he should be proud of the fact that he’s dedicated more than half of his life to the department,” the D2 rep said. “I very much appreciate his style, especially as it relates to communicating with the community.”
Although SJPD has come under fire in recent months for use of force against protestors and racist posts on Facebook by San Jose cops, Jimenez said that shouldn’t taint Garcia’s legacy. When Garcia inherited the department in 2016, San Jose was still recovering from pension battles, which significantly dwindled the number of officers on the force.
Under Garcia’s leadership, the department instituted body-worn cameras, created the community service officer program and published use-of-force data online.
Aaron Zisser—who resigned as the city’s Independent Police Auditor in 2018 amid pressure from the POA—acknowledged that Garcia “was very willing to engage on [his] concerns on various internal affairs investigations.”
But while the chief was receptive to some policy changes, Zisser said he takes issue with Garcia’s recent remarks that SJPD doesn’t have a culture problem.
“It’s just too many things lately to write it off as a few bad actors,” Zisser said.
The former police watchdog said that he hopes San Jose picks its next chief from outside the department. Every officer besides the chief and assistant chief is a member of the police union, he noted, which politicizes the entire agency and makes it resistant to accountability reforms. Zisser said he fears that hiring someone internally will result in a chief too closely affiliated to the union and too opposed to any substantive change.
“What is the city leadership thinking about going forward as they think about who the next chief will be?” he asked. “Will it be someone who is coming in with fresh eyes and thinking about changing how things operate? Or is going to be someone overly familiar with the environment here?”
Shivaun Nurre, the current Independent Police Auditor, said that Garcia “has been an advocate for creating change in the department by implementing data-driven tools as well as progressive training and partnership initiatives such as the SJSU social history class for recruits and the Santa Clara County mobile crisis team.”
“He understands the value of oversight and the important work of the IPA,” she added. “Although we may not have always agreed, I can say with confidence he was willing to listen and worked toward improving the San Jose community. I wish him well.”
San Jose Police Officers Assoc. responds to SJPD Chief’s announcement he’s retiring. “Chief Eddie Garcia never forgot what it was like to push a patrol car through the streets of San Jose & what a difficult job police officers have in trying to keep residents & businesses safe”
— Marianne Favro (@mariannefavro) August 4, 2020
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.