New Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said Monday that he will rely on better police-community relations and better communication with officers to reduce violent crime.
“The most important thing we have to do is reduce violence in our neighborhoods. That’s the most important thing we have to do,” Garcia said.
For the first time since he was hired from San Jose, California last week, Garcia faced questions from Dallas reporters in a virtual conference Monday.
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Garcia said he planned to retire in June after nearly 30 years on the San Jose force but stayed longer after the same challenges Dallas was facing at the time from George Floyd protests and COVID-19.
The Dallas Police Chief opening came up in September when U. Renee Hall announced her resignation. Garcia said the Dallas post was the one challenge that could extend his career.
“The opportunity in Dallas was exciting. I don't feel a better connection to any major city in the country as I do for Dallas,” he said.
Garcia is a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan. He said he intended to move to North Texas even if he had not been selected by Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadhax last week to become the new chief.
Dallas City Council Member Casey Thomas said it helps to know that Garcia likes the Cowboys, but Garcia still faces big expectations.
“Give him plenty of time. I think that we should all have an open mind, give the chief a chance to put his team in place,” Thomas said.
A five-year plan for the police department is already in the works with support from an efficiency study. Changes in patrol staffing are already underway.
“He doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of things that were initially set in place,” Thomas said.
Thomas, who represents a Southern Dallas district, said he is pleased that Garcia plans a greater focus on police-community relations.
“I think the key is relationships, building relationships with our neighborhood, faith and community leaders and making sure that we reestablish that trust,” Thomas said.
Thomas and Councilman Lee Kleinman, who represents a North Dallas District, said the fact that Garcia will be the first Spanish speaking Dallas Police Chief is a very important accomplishment for a city that is more than 40% Latino. But speaking the same language as many residents will not be enough to guarantee his success.
“We brought him in here as a reformer,” Kleinman said.
Councilman Kleinman said he is impressed that Garcia had half as many San Jose police officers to protect a city with a population almost as large as Dallas.
“I think that has great budget implications for the residents of Dallas. Instead of this just ongoing dumping of funds into an inefficient department, hopefully, he can find some efficiencies in that department. I know there are plenty of places for that. And keep the department budget under control while reducing crime,” Kleinman said.
Dallas has a higher crime rate than San Jose.
Black Police Association President Terrance Hopkins said he does not support reducing the size of an already reduced Dallas Force.
“A lot of times that’s the elephant in the room that we didn’t want to talk about as it relates to violent crime but being down about 600 to 800 officers is very much a big factor,” Hopkins said.
Dallas Police lost hundreds of officers in recent years during a pension crisis, a challenge Garcia also faced in San Jose.
Dallas City Manager Broadnax passed over five candidates with local ties to hire Garcia.
Union leader Hopkins said some Dallas officers are grumbling about their friends not being selected, but Hopkins said the outsider should be given a chance to lead after rising through the ranks with many different posts in his former department.
“He has done a lot of the jobs, and a lot of people who come up through the commander ranks have not done a lot of those jobs individually, so I did like that about his resume,” Hopkins said. “He is going to be the Chief of Dallas so we need to make sure we do everything we can do to make sure he is successful, therefore Dallas is successful.”
In return, Garcia said one of his biggest challenges will be to provide officers with clear direction on the crime-fighting mission, something insiders have said was lacking from Chief Hall.
“I will take a reduction personally and it’s not just the numbers. It’s the perception of crime. Both the perception and the numbers have to go in a better direction,” he said.
Garcia said he will not be a ‘stay in the office’ chief and that officers must know that he has their backs. He said he will select an Executive Assistant Chief from the ranks of the current command staff and work to include the commanders who were passed over for his job as part of the inner circle.
“If I’m the smartest individual in the room, then I’ve selected my team poorly. I need great individuals around me to tell me what we need to do, not just as I learn Dallas but in the steps that we will implement,” Garcia said.
Garcia officially takes command in February. Assistant Chief Lonzo Anderson is serving as Interim Chief until then. Anderson was not among the finalists for the permanent position.