Carlos Garcia, who has served as deputy police chief in North Riverside since December 2017, will take the helm as the village’s police chief on May 16, Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. has announced.

Garcia, 49, will be officially sworn in at the village board meeting on May 20, along with a new police commander and sergeant, a new fire department lieutenant and two rookie patrol officers.

 “I’m very humbled to be given this great opportunity,” said Garcia, who started as a North Riverside police officer in 2002 and is the husband of Deborah Garcia, whom he’ll replace as police chief. “I love serving this town. It still has a small-town feel.”

He also becomes the village’s first Hispanic police chief. Garcia reads, writes and speaks Spanish fluently, something he said is an advantage in a place like North Riverside, whose Hispanic population continues to grow.

The 2010 census reported that 32 percent of North Riverside’s population identified as Hispanic. Meanwhile, the 2018 school report card from Komarek School, which serves the village west of First Avenue, indicates Hispanic students make up 47 percent of the enrollment.

“[Speaking Spanish] has been a great advantage in my career here,” said Garcia, who was one of only two Spanish-speaking officers on the force when he was hired. “The town is changing and there are more Hispanic families. When you’re able to speak to residents on calls, it makes them more at ease being able to communicate. It’s been a big plus.”

Hermanek said that being bilingual was a factor in his decision to promote Garcia over Christian Ehrenberg, who also has been serving as a deputy police chief since December 2017.

“It was a consideration,” said Hermanek. “The village has changed a lot, and I think it sets a good precedent. He’s very much a people person.”

Ehrenberg will be the department’s only deputy chief in the future. The department operated with two deputy chiefs during the past year and a half due to a number of large projects inside the North Riverside Police Department, including the launch of the West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) joint dispatch center.

In addition, the interior of the police station has undergone a major renovation to accommodate a central lockup and processing area for other departments involved in WC3, which also includes Riverside, Brookfield and McCook.

Garcia was the deputy chief in charge of patrol operations while Ehrenberg focused on administrative systems, budgeting and payroll.

“They’re both qualified and did tremendous jobs as deputy chiefs,” Hermanek said of Garcia and Ehrenberg. “It was a tough decision, but at this point Carlos was a better fit. But we were blessed to have two qualified people.”

Asked to describe his approach to policing, Garcia said he was an advocate for community policing, especially in a place like North Riverside, where officers can get to know residents and business owners.

“That’s kind of how we operate day to day,” Garcia said. “There’s a great connection between officers and residents, which is kind of rare.”

Like Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak, Garcia is a graduate of Quigley South High School in Chicago. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and was hired as a Brookfield Zoo police officer in 1999 before joining North Riverside three years later.

His wife, Deborah Garcia, is retiring as police chief of North Riverside after a 30-year career. Carlos Garcia has a 20-year-old daughter, Nadia, who is finishing up her specialized training to become a U.S. Navy corpsman. She will be stationed at a naval hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sgt. David Kopka will be promoted to the rank of commander, replacing Dion Bobo, who is retiring. Kopka, who was the first officer Hermanek promoted to sergeant back in 2013, will be responsible for patrol operations, while Ehrenberg will continue to handle administrative duties.

Being sworn in as a sergeant, taking Kopka’s spot, on May 20 will be Officer Terri McCarthy.

Also being sworn in on May 20 as probationary patrol officers are Marisa Mangiantini and Brian Terpstra. Mangiantini, who formerly worked for the Hinsdale Police Department, was hired Feb. 11.

Terpstra was hired Dec. 16 and graduated from the police academy in April.

Finally, North Riverside Firefighter David Rajk will be promoted to lieutenant on May 20, replacing Lt. Russ Perez, who retired May 2.