Skip to main content

David Nisleit Unanimously Confirmed By City Council As San Diego’s Next Police Chief

San Diego homicide Capt. David Nisleit talks about the search for a man belie...

Photo by Associated Press

Above: 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.

David Nisleit Unanimously Confirmed By City Council As San Diego's Next Police Chief


Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News


The San Diego City Council on Monday voted unanimously to confirm David Nisleit as the city's next police chief, clearing him to start the job March 2.

The San Diego City Council on Monday voted unanimously to confirm David Nisleit as the city's next police chief, clearing him to start the job March 2.

Nisleit, 52, has some three decades of experience in the department and has worked in several different capacities, including sex crimes, internal affairs, special events, gangs and homicide. He rose to prominence in June 2016 as he oversaw the investigation into a string of murders of homeless people.

He faces a raft of challenges, among them the police department's chronic shortage of sworn officers. City leaders are hoping a series of pay raises that start July 1 will help stem the tide of officers leaving San Diego for better salaries and benefits elsewhere. Nisleit has also promised to oversee a national recruitment campaign.

"I want you to know I've been listening and I've been taking everything in," he said of his conversations in recent weeks. "I think it's very important as police chief to be open and transparent."

He said he's confident that a new retention and recruitment plan will help the department get back to full staffing for the first time in a decade, largely with officers from San Diego who are dedicated to serving their own community. In an aim to build community trust, he said he plans to make public data regarding race and traffic stops. Nisleit said he also hopes to expand the department's homeless outreach team.

Several community leaders hope the new chief will make meaningful progress on increasing the department's diversity, preventing racially biased policing and improving trust between the police and communities of color.

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

Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Nisleit as his pick for police chief on Feb. 1, after several public meetings and private community interview panels that reviewed the top six finalists in January. Faulconer hired Bob Murray & Associates to lead the search.

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.

"This is a time to really move San Diego forward," said Norma Chavez- Peterson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

The ACLU did not have a public stance on Nisleit's fitness for the role of top cop. But like other residents who struck a more critical tone during the two City Council hearings, Chavez-Peterson took the opportunity to urge the council to press Nisleit for specifics during a fresh chapter in the San Diego Police Department.

And on Monday, they did just that.

Regarding his plans for internal promotions, Nisleit conceded that the department needs to do better informing community leaders about changes in leadership within neighborhood divisions. He said he will need to promote two captains and two assistant chiefs on his first day and that his goal is to achieve stability in the department's higher ranks in order to help commanders build relationships with their communities.

"That takes time to build and every time we rotate (assignments), that starts all over again," he said.

Nisleit said he plans to deal with use-of-force complaints on a case-by-case basis in conjunction with the internal affairs division and the several civilian advisory boards that review the department.

Asked if he would be open to creating restorative justice programs, Nisleit said he has already spoken to the city attorney about the viability of such initiatives and will continue to look into them.

"My short answer is yes," he said. "I'm a big fan of restorative justice, especially for first-time offenders and low-level crimes."

Nisleit currently makes $147,790. His salary as chief will be $205,000, according to reports.

The council also issued a ceremonial proclamation declaring Monday "Shelley Zimmerman Day" in honor of the outgoing police chief. Zimmerman took the police chief post in March 2014 and is leaving the department after five years in a deferred retirement program.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.