Eddie Garcia wears his heart on his sleeve, not far from the three stars that line each side of his collar. It’s for this reason San Jose’s assistant chief of police, who’s set to take over as the city’s interim top cop in January, could very well end up becoming a charismatic figurehead for the San Jose Police Department.
But the judgment of SJPD’s second-in-command came into question earlier this year, when San Jose Inside published emails by him and other top command staff venting frustration with their civilian bosses at City Hall and scoffing at gift policies. A follow-up request for more emails was initially denied by the department, which said the messages were personal in nature and their release would cause more harm than good. An appeal was filed, arguments about transparency were made and a committee consisting of Mayor Sam Liccardo and three council members unanimously agreed with San Jose Inside: The emails should be made public after proper redactions of certain personal information.
We reviewed approximately 400 emails, discussed them with Garcia over coffee and came to several conclusions:
1. Garcia had nothing to hide
The department’s decision to block the release of the emails was purely reflexive after earlier reports. Garcia admitted in an interview that he was embarrassed by some of the previously reported messages and added that they do not reflect his true character.
“I understand I need to be an example for the department and city,” Garcia said.
2. The next chief really loves him some football
The vast majority of emails SJPD wanted to block related to a Pop Warner football team Garcia coached in 2014, as well as the year-round sports schedule of his children. A devoted father and coach, Garcia often used his city email account to coordinate practices and out-of-town games with his spouse and other parents and coaches. This could be a stretch, but he considers his involvement in youth sports to be an extension of his SJPD duties.
“I think it shed a very good light on the department and my work never suffered,” Garcia said.
3. Official business was incorrectly excluded
Garcia invited his friends and parents of players to email or text him at any time, which at times meshed personal greetings with crime tips. This resulted in some messages being inappropriately excluded from a prior request.
In one message, a parent talks about their children attending the same school before alerting Garcia to an embezzlement scam at Samsung. Police say an arrest warrant has been issued for the former employee, Connie H. Kim, who is suspected of stealing $14,000 through fraudulent expense reports.
There also appears to have been a telecommunications attack in July 2014 near Bellarmine Prep’s campus. Fiber optic lines were cut, causing “one hundred times more damage” than the PG&E Metcalf substation attack. It doesn’t appear anyone was ever arrested, but the FBI did get involved. Brian Adams, a spokesman for Bellarmine, said that the sabotage had “no impact at all” on the campus beyond slow Internet speed for a day or so.
4. No more mixing business with pleasure
Garcia created a Gmail account and he’s instructed friends and associates to use that account unless it relates to SJPD business. “It’s something that didn’t register,” Garcia said. “It obviously registers now.”
5. Like it or not, he’s a bro
Garcia can change stars but not his stripes. He’s the guy who calls people “bro.” He’s the guy who freely tosses around exclamation points and wink faces in emails and texts. He likes the word “Geezus!” Esquivel has steadied the ship in hard times; Garcia will be tasked with boosting morale going forward.
UPDATE: Here’s the city’s recap of how the whole process worked.