For the past few years, Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jesse Garcia and I have had an ongoing debate about things police officers do.
In the past year, I've had endless opportunities to needle Garcia. We enjoyed honest, spirited debates about the police, race and pop culture. He was very thin-blue line; he loved policing, but he knew I wasn't anti-cop. I'm anti-chucklehead police responses.
While the popular former Minneapolis public information officer didn't always enjoy my ribbing, he never quit sparring. Often Garcia would concede defeat by saying: "I always say, 'If you treat everybody like your mother, you won't have any problems.' "
I'm going to miss hearing that. Garcia died Thursday, five months after disclosing he had stomach cancer.
My heartfelt condolences to Garcia's mom, Donna Collings; his sister Monica Garcia; her husband, Michael Gabriel, who has been JGar3's steadfast companion in his final months; his teenage son, Jesse Garcia IV, and the rest of the family, including baby Vienna. She'll have photos of herself being held by her proud daddy, but no memories of him.
Back when Garcia was fighting and well, he agreed to do a Sunday Q&A with me. I really wanted to get us on video, to show two very different people who like each other disagreeing without being nasty to each other. But the health crisis roller coaster was taking it out of him so he said it was OK for me to ask him questions over the phone. It feels incomplete because it is and because that's how we feel about most people who only get 48 years.
Q: You didn't think that there was anything wrong with that police officer getting mace on a 10-year-old?
A: When I spray mosquito [repellent] on my arm, there's a chance of my spraying your arm, too. Unless it was directed, directed, at the kid, I don't think there's much of a complaint there. The thing is, C.J., black lives don't just matter — all lives matter. All lives matter. And the second thing is, these people who use the word racism. Racism is the wrong word. If someone says they are racist against Mexicans, that means you have to hate every single Mexican out there. You just can't hate four Mexicans and be considered racist.
Q: You said you question the judgment of parents who would take a 10-year-old to a protest?
A: When you go to a protest, as nonviolent as you and your small group are, you don't know who is going to show up there [who] may try to escalate, going to basically drag you into what's going on. Walking down the middle of Hennepin Avenue at night is probably not the best decision for parents of a -year-old.
Q: The reason they say, Officer Garcia, that Black Lives Matter, is because it looks like there has been open season on black folks. I think there's some bad policing going on when you can't subdue people without killing them. When you come up to a situation and see a 12-year-old (although the white cops in Cleveland said he looked 20) with a toy gun, why would cops come up and not try to assess the situation, hide behind their car?
A: I shot a kid with a toy gun one time. He opened his back door and put a toy gun 2 inches from my face. The gun happened to be a toy replica model like the one I used to carry for 12 years. And from 2 inches away, I couldn't tell if it was real or fake.
Q: So what are you going to tell little Vienna about boys?
A: I don't know yet. [He sounded sad.] I'll have think that one through.
Q: A ladies' man like you has got to have some advice for his daughter about boys.
A: Always demand respect. Make him respect you. The people I've dated, whatever, as long as you treat them well and respect them, you can't go wrong.
Q: Do you think if you were coming out of school today you would still want to pursue a career in policing?
A: Possibly. You can foster change through yourself. You still have your own ideals.
A longer version of this edited interview is online with file video. To reach C.J. try firstname.lastname@example.org and to see her watch the Fox 9 "Buzz."