Adrian Garcia, a 2015 Houston mayoral candidate, Harrison County’s most recent sheriff and a current congressional candidate for Houston’s District 29, spoke at Rice University’s Willy’s Pub on Feb. 17. The conversation focused on the topic of policing in Houston based on his own experience and his current campaign.

“We can never allow ourselves to be so much a part of this culture that we forget that our job is to serve and protect all people,” Garcia said. “We cannot allow culture to move us so far in the wrong way that we lose sight of this responsibility.”

Garcia is running to represent a district that is approximately 80 percent Hispanic with the perspective of being a minority himself and drawing on his career in public safety to guide his vision of America.

“We can never allow ourselves to be so much a part of this culture that we forget that our job is to serve and protect all people,” Garcia said. “We cannot allow culture to move us so far in the wrong way that we lose sight of this responsibility.”

There is significant data on the disproportionate number of African-Americans killed in comparison to their population, Garcia said. As a sheriff, Garcia said he has dealt professionally with the actual situations behind the data.

“I try to ask the question: ‘What drives the data?’” Garcia said. “I get defensive about the concept of ‘cops out to kill’ and try to focus on a commitment to training out of the classroom and in the community.”

Garcia sees three key components to being an effective leader.

“I believe in the value of listening, drive and buy-in in order to bring about change in the community,” Garcia said.

With regard to the Black Lives Matter movement and the numerous civil rights-focused protests in other metropolitan areas of late, Houston has been relatively quiet.

“In terms of recent history, Houston is not Baltimore, New York [or] Ferguson,” Garcia said. “Houston simply hasn’t had events of that scale in part due to good political and community leadership and communication.”

As congressman, Garcia said he hopes to give voice to a relatively underserved community.

“I want my potential constituents to speak up to avoid future gay lives, brown lives, white lives matter movements,” Garcia said. “I want them to say, ‘Stop, you’re wrong.’”

Wiess College sophomore Alex Bergin attended the event to continue working toward a personal political aim on campus.

“I went because one of my goals for this year has been to be as politically involved on campus as possible and as politically informed as I can be,” Bergin said. “I went so I could be more informed about his background as I make the decision about who to vote for in the congressional elections.”

Bergin was particularly struck by how Garcia integrated his individual experience in public safety into his political career.

“I was particularly impressed with the awareness that he had of how the system which he has been an active participant in for many years can perpetuate these inequalities,” Bergin said. “I was very pleased with the steps he has taken to combat many of the problems with policing and the criminal justice system and how aware he was of the issues within the system.”