SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia — who announced Monday he is retiring at the end of the year — talked to KPIX 5 about what he achieved as chief and some of the challenges the department still faces.
Garcia will be leaving the department after nearly three decades on the force.READ MORE: Downsized But Not Out, Dreamforce Conference Set to Boost Business in San Francisco
“There’s no right time to do it on a decision I had made months ago. It was the right time for me,” said Garcia. “I’ve had the great opportunity to work in a lot of units where I solved a lot of problems. I was able to connect with my community and at the same time, keep them safe from the criminal element.”
Garcia told KPIX he’s proud of diversifying the department, raising accountability and guiding it through a pension crisis that caused a mass exodus of officers.
“It wasn’t just myself, but this amazing team that was able to turn the ship from a dying police department into what was a thriving police department,” he said.
But his final year has been marked by controversy. His officers were criticized for using violence to put down recent Black Lives Matter protests, including shooting non-violent protesters with rubber bullets, using tear gas and, in one instance, shouting the B-word at a female protester.
“We’re not perfect. We made some mistakes. There was violence in what erupted that I had not seen in almost 30 years here. Not to say we’re perfect. We will learn from that and get better,” Garcia explained.READ MORE: Flames Reach Ancient Sequoias; Crews in Pitched Battle to Save Giant Forest Grove
San Jose NAACP president Rev. Jethroe Moore said he personally raised concerns with the chief that his department was morphing away from community policing into a more militarized force.
“We saw it coming and we told him, ‘Your officers are getting rough again. Officers are getting rough with the community.’ We told him and we told him and it just didn’t sink in,” Rev. Moore said.
In recent weeks, other critics accused the SJPD of having a culture problem after a racist Facebook page run by current and former officers was exposed. More recently, an officer was seen on video kicking and dragging a woman across a McDonald’s parking lot during an arrest. That officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation of the incident.
Garcia denied there’s a systemic issue.
“Do we have problem officers that we need to address? Absolutely. But I’m not going to say we have a culture problem and smear the reputation of the amazing men and women I have had the privilege of working with,” Garcia argued.MORE NEWS: PG&E Says Light Rain After Long Drought Led to Lights-Out Across Bay Area
Garcia said he would recommend the city promote a new chief from within the ranks of the department. The San Jose City Manager’s office says there will be a nationwide search for a new chief.