“It takes one bad police officer to make 13,000 officers look bad.”

Chicago Police Officer Gerardo Garcia was sitting in his patrol car in the southwest Chicago neighborhood of Englewood when he received a call from officers in the 11th District.  There was a man in an apartment shooting at his mother and girlfriend and threatening to shoot his children if police were called. Despite the threat, Garcia, along with two other officers, arrived at the scene ready to take action.

The officers found the man hiding in the closet with his children.  They told him to come out, but he and the children remained silent.

“We went against procedure but we felt like we had no time,” Garcia, 59, explained. “The other two officers were taking the closet door down, and I was standing facing the closet with my gun pointing directly in front of me not knowing what to expect. As the door falls, I see the man holding his two kids with one arm and pointing a gun at me with his other arm.”

The next thing Garcia remembers is himself on top of the man, grabbing his gun and shooting it towards the wall. Thankfully, everyone made it out safely.

After that incident, Garcia realized he no longer wanted to be a patrol officer. In 2012, he retired from the force after witnessing 30 years of violence in Chicago.

“You think you can save the world, but the world does not want to be saved.”

A father of four, he now spends his time resting and traveling between his two homes in Chicago and Las Vegas. But 35 years ago, his life was anything but restful.

At 26, Garcia knew he wanted to do more with his life than just work in the railroad industry.

“I was married with three kids. The railroad job paid well, but I wanted to do something for the community,” he said.

After a six-month preliminary training period in 1981, Garcia was assigned to patrol Englewood, one of the most violent neighborhoods in Chicago. The three years he spent there were among the most impactful of his entire career and are the reason for his perspective on violence.

“I was young and naïve when I started,” Garcia said. “After about three years, I was psychologically really beat up.  I don’t think it made me less caring.  I was just tired.”

Dan Mahoney, another retired officer, served on the force as a patrol cop for 17 years and a sergeant for 13.  He worked with Garcia for about a decade as his supervisor.

“Gerry was a fantastic police officer,” he said. “He knew his job well and did not need a lot of supervision.  I was confident that he would get any assignment I handed him done correctly.”

In 2017, Chicago is still deep in violence, but the roles have changed. Instead of protecting the city from criminals, violent interactions between law enforcement and civilians have portrayed police officers all over the nation negatively. As a result of police brutality, many lives have been lost.

The Chicago Police Department has recently proposed a policy change that would only allow officers to use their firearms if there were no other alternative. The Department is putting a focus on “de-escalation” tactics and calmer approaches to avoid violent confrontations.

“There are plenty of gun laws,” Garcia said. “They just aren’t being enforced. Now cops are not going out and approaching people when they see something going on because they are scared of looking racist.”

Robert Lombardo, an associate professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Loyola University Chicago and also a retired Chicago police officer, believes the media portrays a false image of police violence.

“Police are not responsible,” he said. “This is a social problem — the lack of jobs and resources in these communities.”

Garcia believes police officers are regular people that want to do good. His biggest concern is not for criminals or law enforcement, but rather for the families seeking peace while living in violent neighborhoods.

“The media never gets both sides of the story,” Garcia said. He wants the public to know that police officers are not the bad guys.

“It takes one bad police officer to make 13,000 officers look bad. That’s what’s missing in the world. Humanity needs more integrity.”