“It’s an honor to be welcomed into one of America’s greatest cities for the second time as chief,” Garcia said. “I’m truly humbled by the thought of wearing the DPD uniform and working alongside such an amazing group of committed men and women.”
Garcia will be leaving his department of 28 years for one three times the size. According to The Mercury News, a California-based newspaper, Garcia announced he would be leaving the San Jose Police Department about a month before police Chief U. Reneé Hall announced her resignation. He became their chief in 2016. Hall and Garcia both got grilled by their respective city council’s for their departments' response to the George Floyd protests this summer.
Demonstrators were injured and, to date, internal investigations of alleged incidents of excessive force remain open. Garcia admitted mistakes were made but defended his department’s tactics to city officials.
He said his story began as a young boy moving from Puerto Rico to a new life in San Jose where he had to learn how to speak English.
Garcia went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Union Institute and University. He became a San Jose police officer in 1992 and climbed through the ranks, working in patrol, narcotics, special operations and the department’s Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment (M.E.R.G.E) unit. He was also a patrol sergeant, detective and homicide investigator, and he commanded the community services division and the special investigations unit.
During his time with the San Jose department, he led initiatives to better community relations, increase transparency and conduct fair, impartial and constitutional policing. HIs department implemented basic Spanish in the police academy. They also launched a Spanish language Facebook page and increased minority recruiting under his watch.
In a statement on social media, Jennifer Gates, Dallas City Council member and chair of the public safety committee, congratulated the new hire and said she is looking forward to working with him to make Dallas safer.
“I am impressed with your commitment to transparency, communication, and building trust with the community and within the department,” Gates wrote.
Lee Kleinman, council member and vice-chair of the public safety committee, said via text he is excited to have an experienced chief who can make substantive improvements to public safety in Dallas. He stressed that Garcia should focus on leadership, saying, “There is a big difference between being a chief (deputy, assistant, etc.) and being THE chief.”
Ahead of the decision, some Dallasites said they wanted a hire from within the department who is connected with the Hispanic community.
However, council member Adam Bazaldua, a member of the public safety committee, says Garcia was his No. 1 choice, and he likes that the city manager went with an outside hire, as this frees Garcia from some of the political pressures that come with the job. Bazaldua said he is impressed with Garcia's assertiveness, and he hopes Garcia will carry this on into his leadership of DPD.
In an emailed statement, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said the pick is a historic moment for Dallas, but that what really matters is the work ahead: making Dallas communities safer and stronger. He said law enforcement will need help from the community in those efforts, but that DPD is integral to combating violence, which disproportionately affects people of color in Dallas.
“As policymakers, we must give Chief Garcia the tools that his officers need to keep people safe and continue to push for solutions — such as the programs recommended by the Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities — that can prevent crime without placing additional burdens on the police department,” Johnson said.
Over 55 community and business organizations took part in panel interviews of the top seven final candidates. Community relations were a main talking point at the forum last week where the city heard from the seven for the first time.
Garcia said during the forum that police need to acknowledge their part in the growing distrust in law enforcement before they can mend relationships with residents. "We need to acknowledge the stars and the badges that we wear so brightly and proud didn't always shine that way," he said. Police need to do a better job of communication, he said, and they need to be more transparent.
The new chief will be inheriting some baggage. Homicides keep piling up in Dallas, violent crime is up by some measures, response times need improvement and morale is down at the department. Garcia is confident he's up for the task and will have to chance to prove it to when he takes over the department in early February.
"Together in partnership and collaboration with the Dallas community, we will meet the challenges of today and beyond," Garcia said.