In 1988 "Rain Man" was playing on the big screen, Ronald Reagan was president, gas was 91 cents a gallon, and Mark Garcia put in his application to become a Chino Valley Police officer.
On Nov. 13, 2012, Garcia filed another piece of paper - his letter of resignation. His last day with the CVPD will be Dec. 7, ending a long and productive career.
Garcia spent his first year wearing a CVPD badge as a volunteer in the reserve program while attending Yavapai College's officer certification program, coming aboard full time on Aug. 9, 1989.
"As a kid growing up in Bagdad, we had a resident Yavapai County Sheriff deputy in town that was a lot like Andy Griffith," said Garcia. "His name was Sid Despain, and he was the type of deputy that knew everyone. He knew your parents, he knew your grandparents, and he knew what the kids did before they did it. He handled himself in a way that made you respect him."
Garcia said that seeing the way the town viewed Despain and how the small town deputy interacted with the public piqued his interest in law enforcement.
After he married his high school sweetheart, the young couple moved to Prescott, where Garcia began working for a roofing company, but he still thought of a career with a badge.
"I remember one morning watching these patrol cars drive by, lights and sirens going, on their way to a call," said Garcia. "I remember thinking 'Hey, I wonder what's going on,' and thinking I want to be one of those people that knows what's going on, I want to be one of those people that are responsible for helping people."
He said the thought of driving a patrol car instead of pounding nails in the hot sun was in the back of his mind, too.
"I was a little tired of pounding nails, and those air-conditioned cars were appealing after ripping off tar roofs and carrying shingles in the hot summers," said Garcia.
Spending his first few years on patrol, then as a CVPD Field Training officer, Garcia next moved into a six-year stint with PANT as narcotics investigator. Following his time with PANT, Garcia served as a detective in Chino Valley from 2000 to 2003, when he was promoted to sergeant. In 2008 he was promoted to commander, his current rank.
"When I first joined the department there were only eight of us, one officer per shift," said Garcia. "We would split the day, so at about 2 a.m. or so the night shift would go home and be on call until the day shift took over. The department has really grown since then."
Garcia remembers the days when all the officers would have to respond to calls alone, from traffic accidents, to domestic violence, to bar fights. The changes he has seen in town have been both good and bad.
"We've definitely gone from a one-horse town to a thriving community," said Garcia. "Some of the big differences is that we've seen an influx of people from out of state, and while that can bring some bad things, some crime that used to be only in bigger cities came in, but at the same time many of those people moving in have brought with them some good business sense, goals, and vision."
Of his own accomplishments, Garcia says he is most proud of his family life - his enduring marriage and his two sons, Mark 27, and Michael, 19.
"Marriages don't always last that long, especially in law enforcement," said Garcia. "The second thing I'm most proud of is the department. The professionalism and the camaraderie that we have here is great. I'm proud that most of our officers are small town people, like me, and they support that small town feel. In bigger cities, you're just a uniform and a patrol car. Here, they really know the community."
No word yet on a replacement for Garcia, but according to CVPD Chief Chuck Wynn, he will first look for a candidate from within the department.
"It would be unfair to say he can't be replaced, but he definitely set the bar high," said Wynn. "He left some big shoes to fill. The best thing he brings to the department is down to earth, common sense. In a department this size, you really have to be a jack-of-all-trades, and he does that. He's a rock, and that will be missed."
Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012
Article comment by:
Congrats on a great career, serving your community and having a great family. You deserve it!!
Posted: Saturday, December 8, 2012
Article comment by:
Mr GARCIA CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR RETIREMENT. AND THANK YOU FOR KEEPING US SAFE OVER THE YEARS. A GOOD POLICE FORCE MAKES IT EASIER TO SLEEP WELL AT NIGHT.