SAN JOSE -- About 15 hours after it was announced that he would be getting the keys to the San Jose Police Department while the city continues its search for the next chief, Larry Esquivel gave his first press conference and said he would keep his focus on the people.

The deputy chief and soon-to-be interim chief said Tuesday he wants to continue a community policing push that became a hallmark of outgoing Chief Chris Moore's two-year tenure at the top.

"We really want to maintain that partnership with the community," Esquivel said.

Esquivel announce no sweeping changes. To be fair, he'll only be in the position for a few months at best as the city gave itself an extension in its quest to replace Moore, whose last day on the job is Saturday.

The department also announced that Deputy Chief Edgardo Garcia, commander of the administrative bureau and former commander of investigations, will step in acting assistant chief, a post recently held by Rikki Goede, who left the department earlier this month to become the police chief in the East Bay city of Piedmont.

Esquivel, a 27-year SJPD veteran whose most recent charge was overseeing the city's patrol force, promised to be a voice for a rank-and-file beleaguered by budget cuts, an officer exodus and a bitter political fight with City Hall over pension and benefits reform.

"I want to represent them and be visible for them," Esquivel said. "I have a pretty good working knowledge of the men and women who work here."

In that respect Esquivel seems well-positioned. As a career officer who started as a reserve officer in 1984, his experience in a multitude of units in the department has earned him the respect of his colleagues.

He praised the quality of the department even as he acknowledged the public's dissatisfaction with how a shrunken force has resulted in significantly slower responses to nonviolent crimes like burglary. The police force numbers just over 1,000, down from more than 1,400 in 2008.

"That perception is real to our citizens," Esquivel said. "It's important to them."

Esquivel stressed retention as a department priority in this interim period, as officers either retiring or leaving for police departments with more attractive pay and perks are outpacing the number of new recruits expected to join the ranks this summer.

Neither Esquivel nor his four fellow deputy chiefs applied for the soon-to-be-vacant post held by Moore. Esquivel chalked up his choice as a "personal decision" that "at the time wasn't right for me." But he says he is looking forward to the challenge of leading the department in the short term.

"I'm here to lead until however long it takes to select the new chief," he said.

Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.