Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

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 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.
David Nisleit Unanimously Confirmed By City Council As San Diego's Next Police Chief
David Nisleit Unanimously Confirmed By City Council As San Diego's Next Police Chief GUEST: Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News

>>> I am Maureen Cavanaugh it is Tuesday, February 27. Our top story on Trenton, San Diego's new police chief is sworn in at City Hall today. The city Council unanimously approved the appointment of a new chief and a final public hearing yesterday. There is a lot of hope writing on the ability of the new chief. He is being tasked with building up the San Diego forest, at the same time adding new levels of diversity and accountability to city policing. Joining me is KPBS metal reporter Andrew Bowman. The vote was unanimous. But were council members pretty uniform in their praise of chief new site? >>> No one had anything bad to say about him. They respect his experience and his leadership in the department over the last 30 years. There were pointed questions that came from a couple of members, one of the most pointed questions came from Alvarez and Gomez. Go best asked about SB54 the sanctuary state bill that was passed last year that limits law enforcement from federal immigration. They asked how it would be implementing gotten Alvarez asked about recruitment retention which we will talk about later. Overall the council members were pretty satisfied with his answers. >>> Did the new chief say they was going to be any changes in the way city police approach people who perhaps are here illegally. >> He said the current policy which is to not ask the current policy of any victims study witnesses or people being stopped for traffic violations or misdemeanors. >>> People who testified have not been critical of him. Several wanted to press him on the specifics on how he tackles the problems on the force. Did you give any specifics yesterday ? >> He said he wanted to expand the homeless outreach team and expand the psychiatric emergency response team. He says the department lost some of those recently. He wants to set up regular meetings with community groups to get feedback on how they want the police force to work with their communities and to give more advanced warning to those community quote the escrow -- groups like when you have a staffing crisis, there's a lot of movement. He wants to stabilize that and let people know what's happening in the Advance. >>> What about racial profiling. He told people this month that he would share traffic stop data with the public. Did he have more to say last night? There is a state law called AB 953 that will require law enforcement across California to collect more data on traffic stops including the time, date, location, reason for the stop, the perceived race or ethnicity of the person the police are stopping. And if there was a search performed and if there was contraband found. This is in part a response to a study that was commissioned by the city, performed by SDSU we covered it on the program and among the findings is a black and Latino community was likely to be searched during a traffic shop -- stop and less likely to be found with contraband. The study showed that the previous chief did not fully acknowledge the racial disparities that the data uncovered. I asked him directly if he thought in light of the study whether racial bias was a problem at the San Diego Police Department and here is what he said. >> You look at the study and this is page 74 where the study said there was no racial profiling. I am aware of the disparities based on search. I am glad AB 953 is coming on board. With the reason I'm glad this because that will cut through far more data and more data fields than the SEF you study did. We can take a big dive into different things and maybe even make some sense or explain the searches. And then it'll make the adjustments. I will not be the person who looks at this on July 29 to say here are the facts. I want to look at this on a regular basis and point to the Lieutenant to look at this on a regular basis. I want to make sure that what we are doing is right. And if we need to make adjustments either on the training side or whatever, will make the adjustments. >>> That is the new chief getting specific about racial profiling. You said that we would get more specific information about recruitment and retention. Last week the Police Department said it had more than 250 vacancies. That is the highest since 2012. That is despite the recent pay raise. What strategies is he considering? >> The pay raises have not gone into effect. The first one is July 1. It is too soon to say whether or not they will work or be enough to re-staff the of -- department. They say the new contract will be the most powerful tool in re-staffing the department because they will be more competitive with other agencies. He also said that SDPD is seeking an marketing firm to advise on how to brand SDPD to make it more attractive to people and create a marketing plan. It is not just the highest number of vacancies, it is also 25 officers left the department in the current fiscal year. That is a higher number than the last eight years and the fiscal year is not over. This crisis is very much still happening. >>> When does the new chief start. Does he plan to shake up the department in any way ? >> He starts on Friday. He mentioned a few promotions he will do as soon as he takes the job. Whether that amounts to a shakeup, I don't know. I think the next few months and years are going to be, they are going to reveal exactly how much, what kind of police chief he is going to be and how much he will continue the status quo. Whether he is really going to be shaking things up. And what kind of relationship he will build with the different council members. >>> I been speaking with KPBS metal reporter Andrew Boeing. Andrew, thank you. >> Thank you.

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