By Ashley Moss
A Christmas package arrived early for the City of Dallas with the formal announcement on December 23rd of the appointment of the new police chief.
More than 55 community and business organizations participated in panel interviews of the top candidates which included five local candidates, but the City ultimately looked west to Eddie Garcia to fill the role of top cop over the ninth-largest police department in the country.
Garcia, who most recently served for four years as the chief of police for the San Jose Police Department in California, will be the first Latino to preside over the City of Dallas, replacing current Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall, who submitted her resignation in September.
While local leaders advocated for the appointment of an internal candidate, most said Garcia would be welcomed.
“T.C. Broadnax had a difficult decision but he had to do what was right for Dallas holistically and not just one group and I’m good with the decision,” said Terrence Hopkins, President of the Black Police Association of Greater Dallas.
“He’s battle-tested in a lot of areas Dallas has issues with,” Hopkins added citing Garcia’s experience with prominent issues like diversity and social justice. “He’s been the number one guy in a top 10 city (San Jose) with a makeup similar to Dallas – not (just) an assistant, a deputy or a major.”
“I had hoped Malik Aziz would have gotten the job,” said Sheldon Smith, the Dallas chapter president of the National Black Police Association. “But I think he was asked to apply by the City. That says a lot in itself.”
“He told us it would take time to evaluate where we are as a Department and our leadership,” he added. “He is capable and experienced and I will support him.”
Aziz, a David W. Carter High School and UTA graduate with an MBA from the University of Dallas, was also a finalist when Chief Hall was hired in 2017.
Throughout the process, some in Dallas discussed their hopes of the chief coming from within their ranks. Interestingly, according to Garcia, he hopes the next chief will come from within also.
“We’re a little disappointed that we didn’t get an internal candidate, especially with the crime going on here in Dallas, but Eddie Garcia will be the perfect fit.” said Sgt. George Aranda, President of the National Latino Law Enforcement Organizations’ greater Dallas chapter and supervisor of DPD’s Recruiting Unit in an interview with Texas Metro News on Wednesday.
Sgt. Aranda then pointed to San Juan, Puerto Rico-born Garcia’s education, background and prior work experience before adding, “We’re going to get behind him and we’re going to support him.”
But along with the support, Aranda expressed a need for immediate accountability for the man taking the top spot.
“The rank and file is hurt and a lot of people don’t know that,” he added. “There’s been no direction under the current chief (Hall) and Garcia needs to sit down with the rank and file to hear what’s happening, listen to the ideas and help open up the line of communication.”
When Hall was hired, Aranda said she needed to have at least seven years of experience as a chief, instead of the three she had leading Detroit PD. Garcia comes to the Dallas PD with five years as San Jose chief cop.
When asked how Garcia might compare to the department’s current chief, Rene Martinez, who serves as president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Chapter 100 in Dallas, said the contrast was like apples to oranges.
“Garcia has a lot more experience than Chief Hall and he will not have any hesitancy in his ability to reach out to all parts of the community,” said Martinez. “He’s Latino and he speaks Spanish fluently, which is important in a community that is 41 percent Spanish-speaking. He’s going to connect very quickly.”
Despite criticism, the Grambling State University alum still maintained community support as several appreciation events were held following her announcement and the department’s website touted her successes, stating: “Under Chief Hall’s leadership, there was a 5.7 percent reduction in overall crime in 2017 and a 5.97 percent reduction in violent crime in 2018.”
Still, crime rates rose sharply in 2020, not only in Dallas but across the country and local leaders said Wednesday that the Chief’s first priority should be focused on bringing the crime in the city down.
“The rates for property crime, robbery and family crime continue to go up with the holidays and COVID,” said Hopkins. “He’s going to have to implement a plan quickly to address violent crime in the city as it continues to increase. The Black Police Association is prepared to go to work with him to help him work on the issues in Dallas.”
The crime rate was also a major focus for Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.
“I expect that he will immediately begin developing plans to fight the unacceptable violent crime increases we have seen in Dallas,” said the Mayor. “We will need our communities’ help in those efforts. Too many lives have been taken in our city. Too many families have been devastated by violence. And too many people in our neighborhoods feel unsafe.”
His thoughts were echoed by the City Manager.
“I’m pleased to see this inclusive, equitable and transparent process culminate successfully with the hire of Chief Garcia,” said Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax. “Despite the challenges of the global pandemic, it’s an exciting time for him to come to Dallas and continue building on the foundation of R.E.A.L. Change we’ve built – advancing 21st Century policing in ways that are responsible, equitable, actionable, and legitimate.”
Today he’s 50, but the graduate of Union Institute and University retired from the San Jose PD on December 12, 2020, after 28 years on the force and said he had already planned to make North Texas his home.
“My story began as a young boy moving to a new city, learning to speak English in a community that promoted me to Chief. It’s an honor to be welcomed into one of America’s greatest cities for the second time as Chief.” said Garcia. “I’m truly humbled by the thought of wearing the DPD uniform and working alongside such an amazing group of committed men and women. Together in partnership and collaboration with the Dallas community, we will meet the challenges of today and beyond.”
Garcia assumes his new role on February 3, 2021.