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SDPD captain to sue police department for racial discrimination

The San Diego Police Department headquarters is seen in this photo taken May 11, 2023. San Diego, Calif.
Alexander Nguyen
The San Diego Police Department headquarters is seen in this photo taken May 11, 2023. San Diego, Calif.

A San Diego Police Department captain who says he was discriminated against by the police department because of his race and his refusal to falsify traffic collision reports, including one concerning the police chief's son, announced Friday that he will be filing a lawsuit against the SDPD.

Capt. Alberto Leos says he has applied for executive positions within the department on six separate occasions, but has repeatedly been rejected and passed over for less experienced White officers.

Leos also says department leadership altered reports concerning officer-involved traffic collisions — including one that involved San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit's son, Ryan Nisleit, also an SDPD officer.


Leos says he first discovered this when he found his name forged on one such report. He alleges his direct supervisor ordered his name forged and the report altered in order to reduce the punishment another officer could have received for a crash.

According to Leos, another report altered findings in a crash involving Ryan Nisleit, prompting community backlash. Leos said he has faced retaliation since pushing back on altering the crash report, while Nisleit's son has since been promoted and has not faced reprimand despite allegedly being at fault in the crash.

"It's true in our department we have nepotism, bullying and preferential treatment," Leos said at a Friday news conference. "This exists at our department and has existed for some time now."

In a statement, SDPD said: "The San Diego Police Department promotes individuals based on their skills, qualifications and performance. The executive leadership of the department currently includes sworn and professional staff with diverse backgrounds, including, African-American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Latin American representation. SDPD remains committed to promoting the best candidates to serve our communities."

San Diego Police Officers Association President Jared Wilson said in a separate statement: "Today's demands that an Assistant Chief be promoted simply on the grounds of ethnicity or nationality sends the wrong message to rank and file officers. Every promotional process should be merit based. The rank of Captain is itself a senior leadership position within the department that many strive for and is difficult to obtain."


One of Leos' attorneys, John Gomez, said that, despite San Diego's considerable Mexican population, the San Diego Police Department does not have one Mexican-American officer in any of its executive positions.

In addition to damages, Leos and his attorneys are seeking to have Nisleit and others in SDPD leadership roles placed on leave pending a third- party investigation. He also calls for a bilingual Mexican American to be appointed to one of the seven Assistant Chief positions.

"The retaliation at the executive level left me with no other option but to move forward with civil litigation," Leos said. "I fear retaliation as I talk with you today, but doing the right thing overrides the fear that I have."

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