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Community activist calling for SDPD Chief Nisleit resignation over alleged abuse of power

A community activist has filed two complaints with the California Department of Justice against the San Diego Police Department and Chief David Nisleit. KPBS reporter Alexander Nguyen says the complaints allege corruption and abuse of power.

At a news conference Monday morning, community activists were calling for the resignation of three top cops at the San Diego Police Department, including Chief David Nisleit, for alleged corruption and abuse of power.

Activist Tasha Williamson said San Diego's "critical institution" has been compromised. She is accusing Nisleit and assistant chiefs Chris McGrath and Terence Charlot of dishonesty and abuse of power, and she has filed two complaints with the California Department of Justice Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).

“We are calling for an external entity to initiate an investigation into corruption within the San Diego Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit," she said.


The allegations come on the heels of a discrimination complaint filed by police Capt. Alberto Leos last month. He alleges that the department’s top brass altered reports concerning traffic collisions involving police officers. One of those collisions allegedly involved Ryan Nisleit, the chief’s son, who is also an SDPD officer. Leos claims he has faced retaliation since pushing back on altering the crash report, while Nisleit's son was promoted despite allegedly being at fault in the crash.

At the news conference, Williamson was joined by Yusef Miller, executive director of the North County Equity Justice Coalition. He said when an officer lodges a complaint and is overwritten by the department's leadership, it erodes the community's trust in police.

“Leadership is responsible and culpable, and we need to find out the truth of the matter," Miller said. "This ricochet is all the way down to the street cop, the cop that is on the beat.”

He said the actions of the department's leader encourage beat cops to alter reports as well.

In her complaints, Williamson also alleges that Capt. Mike Holden in the Internal Affairs Unit was reassigned because he would not alter a report after Nisleit asked him to.


In a statement, San Diego Police Officers Association president Jared Wilson said Williamson has made false allegations against SDPD officers and employees in the past.

"Based on past allegations, her claims are not credible and the SDPOA will be reviewing this for libel and legal action,” he said.

Williamson said the police union is also part of the problem.

“So we do not hold credible the POA because the POA is part of the system," she said. "That is part of the problem. And they have been protecting this system for as long as they have been in existence.”

Nisleit announced last week he is retiring next year. Executive director of Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance Genevieve Jones-Wright, who was also there at the news conference, said San Diegans can't wait that long for much-needed change.

"When we ask ourselves why corruption abounds in San Diego, everywhere we look, whether it's with an elected official or a public official, we have to then ask ourselves why no one is holding them accountable. And why this culture of getting away with this with impunity abounds," she said. "We have to do something."

Williamson is also calling for a halt of all promotions in January in light of the allegations and also for an outside entity to conduct the search for a new chief with the community’s input.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.