San Jose police chief retires after 30 years

San Jose police Chief Larry Esquivel plans to retire next year after serving 30 years with the department, city officials announced Wednesday in a statement:

“It’s been an incredible journey over the past three decades, and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else but here as a member of San José Police Department. … After thirty years, however, I feel it’s time for the next generation to lead, which will open up leadership opportunities for others.”

Esquivel added:

“I’m confident we’re now on the right path toward stability and growth under our current leadership teams, and I know I’m leaving our department in very capable hands.”

When Esquivel’s retirement goes into effect on Jan. 16, Assistant police Chief Eddie Garcia, a 23-year veteran of the force, will temporarily serve as chief until a permanent selection is made, city officials said.

Esquivel became interim chief in January 2013, succeeding former Chief Chris Moore, and was appointed to the permanent post in December 2013.

Esquivel first joined the department in 1984 as a police reserve officer and was sworn as an officer two years later, according to city officials.

He has served in the department’s patrol, narcotics enforcement, special operations – Mobile Emergency Response Group and Equipment, investigations, field training, internal affairs and administration units.

Mayor Sam Liccardo said in statement:

“In the face of daunting challenges, Chief Esquivel’s strong leadership and commitment to collaboration has steered our police department to keep our residents safe — with the lowest rate of violent crime of any major city in America — during some very difficult years for a workforce that lost hundreds of officers.”

Hundreds of police officers left the department after pension reform Measure B was passed by 69 percent of voters in June 2012.

City unions, including the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, which represents 1,100 department employees, filed lawsuits opposing the measure and in December 2013 a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled against portions of the measure.

City officials and the police union reached a tentative settlement agreement on the measure earlier this month.

City Manager Norberto Dueñas said in a statement:

“The past several years have been among the most challenging in the Department’s history, and Chief Esquivel has provided strong and collaborative leadership to guide the men and women who serve and protect our community and to achieve greater stability for the Department in the face of daunting difficulties.”

For the first time in 14 years, the department lost one of its own in the line of duty on March 24, when an armed suspect fatally shot Sgt. Michael Johnson, 38, during a call for service.

Esquivel tackled and apprehended a handcuffed murder suspect who attempted to run away from the police headquarters parking lot on April 21.

Under Esquivel’s leadership, the department has expanded to three police academies every year, developed its body-worn camera pilot program, created its first Youth Leadership Academy and formed a gang suppression unit, city officials said.

Esquivel said:

“It has been an honor to serve and protect while wearing this badge, and I will forever be thankful for the support given to this department and me. We have incredibly talented men and women at SJPD that we can be extremely proud of.”