Looking to the Future with Sheriff-elect

When Harris County Sheriff-elect Adrian Garcia settles into his new job after the first of the year, he’ll have his hands full. With 4-thousand employees and a budget of 380-million dollars, the sheriff’s department is the marquee law enforcement agency in the state’s most populous county. Jack Williams sat down with Garcia to find out what the veteran community leader has in store.

Garcia isn’t officially sheriff yet, but you’d have a hard time telling. He’s already examined the department top to bottom, interviewed command staff and is ready to turn the department into what he calls a “contemporary but efficient” organization.

“You know, ultimately at the end of the day, people know that being the sheriff of the Harris County Sheriff’s office is a tough job. We have tough challenges. But I think as long as you’re communicating to the public, people will understand the challenges and people will work alongside you to address those challenges. But you’ve got to communicate with the public.”

Garcia is no stranger to public service. He spent 23 years as a Houston police officer and is currently a city councilman and Mayor Pro Tem.

“The experience of being part of a legislative body like Houston City Council and being a part of the governance of all that and working with the constituency of over 300,000, all of that is going to serve me well, but obviously, being a law-enforcement officer and stepping-in as the sheriff of the greatest county in Texas, it will be a tremendous advantage that I will bring to the table.”

He says he’d like to make some major changes quickly. One of them is to make the sheriff’s department self-reliant when it comes to several key operational issues.

“One of the things that I want to do is to quit depending on the Houston Police Department in its entirety for aerial support, for SWAT and tactical support and create that capacity within our agency in it of itself, so that we can then provide that support to the outlying communities and the smaller agencies.”

He also wants to put what he calls “more boots on the ground” as quickly as he can.

“There’s maybe some places inside the detention center that we can increase with detention staff rather than having classified deputies. So we can work on some improvements in that regard. We’re also looking at how we can make sure that we are gaining support from outside agencies, or outside academies like the University of Houston Downtown’s police academy. They’re graduating about 150 people a year and so I want to see if those folks meet the standards of the Harris County Sheriff’s office and if so, I want them in our uniform as quickly as possible.”

Garcia, the son of a local auto mechanic, says it’s an honor to take over as the county’s top law enforcement officer.

“You know, a guy like me that came from humble beginnings like many people that have done great things in this community, I’m just honored that the voters have given me this opportunity. I’m going to work hard to make good of it and give my contribution to make our community safe.”

Tommy Thomas, who has spent 13 years as sheriff, will step down at the end of the year.