New sheriff looking to the future

November 5, 2008 5:33:00 PM PST
Adrian Garcia has been named Harris County's first Hispanic sheriff. He's vowing to restore the public's trust in the department. Surrounded by controversy, Sheriff Tommy Thomas is voted out of office. He was once the center of a 13 Undercover investigation. Garcia's win puts an end to Thomas' 13 years in office.

As the democratic challenger in a hotly contested race, Adrian Garcia made history Tuesday night, as the first Hispanic to be elected Harris County Sheriff.

"I am humbled," Garcia said. "That's the best way I can describe it."

Today the sheriff-elect is focusing not on victory, but the future.

"The number one priority is to restore the public's trust. We've got to get that back," Garcia explained. "That's the only way that the good, hard working men and women of the Harris County Sheriff's office will be able to do their jobs."

Repairing the damage caused by one scandal after another is only half the battle. Changing the culture of a regime that's existed for years -- which some claim is based on intimidation -- may be the sheriff-elect's greatest challenge of all.

Deputy A. Rivera with the Mexican American Sheriff Organization said, "People need to be held accountable for what they do in the department. Without a bill of rights, we have no rights. That is important to us, above all things."

As a former Houston Police officer, Garcia -- who garnered key endorsements from all three deputy unions -- says it's important to him, too. His commitment, his insists, won't end with making sure their rights are protected.

"We will have a commitment to making sure that our personnel are well trained, well supported, have the right equipment, all the right tools to get the job done," he promised.

Although he won't take office until the first of the year, Garcia is already setting goals. One of those goals is to turn the Harris County Sheriff's Office into the leading law enforcement agency in the country.

Garcia says he is already working on a transition team. He says he wants to give everyone a fair shot, meaning he will not clean house.

Our attempt to reach Sheriff Tommy Thomas for a comment today was unsuccessful.

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