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First Public Hearing For San Diego Police Chief Nominee Focuses On Diversity, Transparency

San Diego homicide Capt. David Nisleit talks about the search for a man believed responsible for two murders and two assaults of homeless citizens, July 6, 2016.
Associated Press
San Diego homicide Capt. David Nisleit talks about the search for a man believed responsible for two murders and two assaults of homeless citizens, July 6, 2016.
First Public Hearing For San Diego Police Chief Nominee Focuses On Diversity, Transparency
First Public Hearing For San Diego Police Chief Nominee Focuses On Diversity, Transparency GUEST:Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

>>> I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Tuesday, February 13. Our top story on Midday Edition , members of the public have had a chance to comment on the selection of David Nisleit as San Diego's next police chief. David Nisleit who is presently assistant chief, was chosen by Mayor -- trend -- Mayor Kevin Faulconer to succeed Chief Shelley Zimmerman. The Council has to confirm the choice. Last night councilmembers heard from the public about what some San Diego once want to see for the future. Joining me is Andrew Bowen who was at last night city Council meeting. >> Thank you, Maureen. >> What was the Council session like? Did many people attend? >> Yes, there were well over 100 people. It was a well attended meeting. That was a diverse crowd. There were speakers from across the city. There were a few intense moments with people speaking critically but overall it was a professional and cordial hearing. >> You have reported many of the speaker supported the selection of David Nisleit. Those who spoke critically, did not actually have anything bad to say about David Nisleit himself. Tell us about that . >> No one really disputes his qualifications and experience with the department. He has been there for over 3 decades. Everyone agrees he can do a fine job in leading the department and overseeing the police force. What people took issue with was not so much what he has said that what he has not said. They wanted more details on how he plans to improve recruitment and retention of police officers which is a long-standing issue. They want to know how he plans to increase diversity in the department and overcome issues of mistrust in certain communities come up particularly committees of color. >> From those who spoke in support, what are some of the things they had to say? >> The police officers Association spoke in favor of him. --. They said his father is a retired captain so policing is in his family. His son graduated from the Academy. They have focused on his experience in the department that there were 2 minority police officer groups, one representing black and the other police officers. They said he supported more diversity and is open to hearing concerns from the community about issues of mistrust, and also a lot of people on town councils and a few from the advisory boards related to the police say that he is very accessible. They say they have met in person with him. He listens to them. That goes along with with people. >> As you said, diversity was a major issue with people who were concerned about the future of the SDPD. Has the chief outlined a plan to bring more diversity into the force? >> I did not hear any outline of a plan last night. I am not sure have he has spoken or made public comments. I was aware that some people criticized him and said they wanted to see more specifics beyond saying he supports a police force that is reflective of the diversity of the community. The general agreement among the speakers is that currently, it is not. The minority groups are not represented sufficiently in the police department. They said if he has 30+ years of experience, he should have more concrete and specific ideas on how to improve diversity. >> What about police community relations? What were speakers concerned about >> That was a big topic. Several people mentioned the San Diego State University study that came out in 2016 on racial profiling. It found some evidence of racial disparities in traffic spots. Black and Latinos are much more likely to be stopped by police and more likely to be questions but much less likely to be found with contraband. The reaction from the current chief is defensive. There was no acknowledgment from her that racially biased policing is an issue in San Diego. That contradicts the experiences of a lot of people in San Diego, many of whom were there last night. One woman's story stuck out. She said she moved here 18 months ago. She is the only black family in the neighborhood and both she and her son were stopped and questioned by police officers on separate occasions with no real apparent reason. I think there was a desire from people who are concerned about relations between the policing -- police and immunities of color. The next chief needs to acknowledge the experience of people of color and provide ways to fix those problems. >> There is currently a police review commission in the city. Why is it believed not to be independent? >> It is now called the community would be -- review board on police practices. Exist to review officer met -- misconduct, in-custody desks -- death -- there is a suggestion that it lacks teeth. Many of the city attorneys office represent the police department and they see a conflict of interest there. There was a measurement past in 2016 that gave the city Council new authority to reform this body. There was a desire among the commenters that the city Council use that authority and initiate some reforms of the body. >> Did city councilmembers or David Nisleit himself speak at the meeting? >> Yes, David Nisleit spoke. He did not have to be there but he was. He did not say a lot. He thanked the mayor and the Council for hearing everyone and thanked everyone for showing up. He said he would lead with integrity. He is committed to transparency. You will be listening to the community. Those are things you would expect them to say. The councilmembers had a Q&A for the confirmation hearing which is happening in 2 weeks. They did say that they want to hear more specifics from him about how he plans to deal with the issues that speakers were bringing up. They also said this process of nominating him and going through an extensive interview process with a panel of community members has been better and more transparent than the last process in 2014 when Chief Shelley Zimmerman was appointed . >> That confirmation at the end of the month, is that the final step? >> Yes, anyone can attend the meeting and give public comment. Councilmembers will vote to confirm and that is at every 26 at 2 PM. >> I have been speaking with Andrew Boeing. Thank you. >> You are welcome.

Feedback on Mayor Kevin Faulconer's choice of veteran lawman David Nisleit as the next police chief was largely positive Monday at the first of two City Council confirmation hearings, with representatives from a range of groups describing the current assistant chief as a leader with integrity who is dedicated to building relationships in the community he serves.

Critics focused not on the qualities of Nisleit, but took the opportunity to speak about their concerns on the lack of diversity in the department's highest ranks and implored the council to push Nisleit for specifics about how he would strengthen trust with communities of color, address bias and improve transparency and accountability.

Several speakers also said reforms are needed to give more civilian oversight of the department.


RELATED: Mayor’s Selection For Next SDPD Chief Says Public Should Expect Transparency

Nisleit, 52, was selected by Faulconer earlier this month as the successor to Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who is set to retire in March. His nomination must be confirmed by a majority vote of the council. The public hearing on his appointment will continue Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., where the council will question Nisleit before taking a vote.

Nisleit has served in the department's gang, robbery, narcotics, homicide, sex crimes, SWAT, internal affairs and special operations units.

While conducting a nationwide search for Zimmerman's successor, city officials solicited input from the public during a half-dozen meetings and received about 2,000 online surveys from residents. Faulconer also sought the input of advisory boards of community leaders and city executives.

The names of the half-dozen finalists interviewed by those boards will not be made public due to privacy considerations, according to Faulconer's office.


Nisleit was the overwhelming choice of those boards, city officials said.

District Attorney Summer Stephan, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and representatives from the United African American Ministerial Action Council and Latino, Pacific Islander and black police officers associations put their support behind Nisleit on Tuesday.

"We depend on their good work," Stephan said. "What we require is integrity, trust, competence and leadership at the San Diego Police Department and this is exactly what Chief Nisleit provides."

RELATED: San Diego Leaders React To Appointment Of New Police Chief David Nisleit

Maria Cortez, a 45-year City Heights resident, said Nisleit is focused on community policing.

"We need somebody that is there for the community. He has always been there for the community," she said. "The nation should take a look at us in City Heights and see how we work with the police department and how the police department works with us."

Others, however, said that the council should ask Nisleit to put in writing his specific plans to address important issues facing the department such as the recruitment, promotion and retention of people of color and women.

"There's a lack of color in everything that has to do with SDPD," Francine Maxwell said. "I am asking you to dissect the word 'diversity' when people stand here and tell you that we have diversity."

Mallory Webb, president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's youth council, said that she too wanted specifics — about how Nisleit plans to address bias in policing and connect with youth of color in neighborhoods such as Southeast San Diego.

Others raised concerns about cooperation between police officers and immigration officials and racial profiling in the department.

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