By Maria Medina

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — San Jose’s newest top cop was announced Tuesday after a months-long, nationwide search.

Police Chief Anthony “Tony” Mata was among several candidates in the running. He joined the San Jose Police Department in 1996 as an officer after leaving his hometown of Chicago.

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“Tony Mata gets it, he understands that there are reforms that are necessary in our department, like in every big city department,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Mata rose through the ranks at SJPD and had been the department’s executive officer before he was appointed chief. He was deputy chief for more than four years, managing patrol operations. As captain, he ran a patrol division and a unit within the Bureau of Investigations, and worked in patrol, administration, and research and development as a lieutenant.

“I’m heavily engaged with the community and have always been since the start of my career,” Mata said during a public forum in February, which included all candidates for the position.

Rosie Chavez, an organizer with Silicon Valley De-Bug, hopes that Mata continues to engage with the community. De-Bug works with about a dozen families impacted by police use-of-force, including Chavez whose nephew, Jacob Dominguez, was shot by San Jose police during a deadly confrontation.

Police were cleared in the fatal shooting of Dominguez who they said ignored commands to put up his hands, then dropped them out of view.

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“That’s all we want, some accountability and some transparency,” Chavez said. “Yes, we’re angry, yes, we’re hurt, yes, we missed our loved ones, we’re not going to get them back, but meet with us because we have ideas too. We’re open doors here at De-Bug, and the families would love to meet with him and to hear what he’s going to do.”

Mata replaces former Chief Eddie Garcia, who retired last December. His retirement came in the wake of calls for police reform after the public criticized the police-of-force that was used during police brutality protests last year. The criticism has led to lawsuits against the department.

Last fall, the department was also embroiled in controversy after it came to light that retired and active police officers had been involved in racist and anti-Muslim posts on Facebook.

“I also experienced racism, poverty, limited opportunities growing up in one of the most segregated cities,” Mata said during the February candidate forum.

“This is a department that’s not broken, there’s a lot of great women and men who are serving, but of course we need changes and we’re hearing clearly from the community about the importance of accountability and transparency and equity,” said Liccardo. “This is an opportunity for all of us to take a breath now that we have a chief to think about what we want the future to be.”

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Mata is expected to speak for the first time as chief on Wednesday during an 11 a.m. news conference.