David Nisleit Officially Becomes San Diego’s New Chief of Police

Created: 02 March, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Alexandra Mendoza

David Nisleit, San Diego, Chief of Police
Chief of Police David Nisleit and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

This week marks the beginning of a new era for the San Diego Police Department, as David Nisleit takes over as the 35th Chief of Police.

After being unanimously ratified by City Council, the new Chief was sworn in Tuesday at a ceremony attended by his family, including his father and his son, both who have also worn the uniform.

“It is truly an honor and I’m blessed and humbled to be the 35th Chief of police,” he said during his speech at the ceremony. “I look forward to working with the City Council and everyone in the community in making San Diego the safest large city in the United States.”

Nisleit, 52, who until recently served as Assistant Chief, takes over for Shelley Zimmerman now that she is retiring after more than 30 years of service.

The change in leadership takes place during a time when crime in the city is at its lowest rate in 50 years. However, the new chief still has big tasks ahead, among them filling more than 200 vacant police officer positions.

While the agency will be searching for officers nationwide, priority will be given to local officers. Nisleit has also committed to creating a diverse workforce and stated during his hearing before City Council that half of the police academy cadets are minorities.

In previous years, some advocacy organizations have expressed their concern regarding arrests based on racial profiling, after reports emerged indicating that Hispanics and African-Americans were more likely to be questioned by police.

The new chief has also committed to adhering to a state law that requires law enforcement agencies to keep records on the ethnicity of people questioned and arrested by police.

Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, a member of the City Council’s Safety Committee, stated that one of the priorities is to improve relations between the police and the community.

“We have had many victories in keeping the City of San Diego safe and sound, but at the same time, I have heard that communities of color have not had the best relationship with the police department, and that is something that I will be working on very closely with the new chief of police to ensure that we have a better relationship,” Gomez said.

She added that they will also ensure that the state law limiting local police collaboration with federal immigration agencies is followed in order to not lose the trust of immigrant communities as well as avoid the deportation of people who have not committed any serious crimes.

“I know that the police department doesn’t get involved in that, that is the policy,” she said. “But there are also times when that is not what is done in practice, and that is something I have said to the new Chief, that we have to do much better in making sure we protect everyone who lives in San Diego, including our migrant community.”

Nisleit himself has reiterated that his agency will not do the work of immigration authorities.

The new Chief, a three-decade veteran of the San Diego Police Department, has previously held leadership roles in different divisions, including the gang unit, SWAT, and Homeless Outreach.

As Assistant Chief, he also oversaw security for over 1,000 special events, including Comic-Con, sporting events, the Women’s March, and the San Diego LGBT Pride Festival, among many others.
San Diego District Attorney’s Office spokesperson Jesse Navarro said he knows the new Chief of Police well, having even patrolled with Nisleit’s father when they both worked at SDPD.

“For those communities that think that there’s friction, that there are problems, let there be no doubt that Chief Nisleit is a sincere person; he has a great history, and he will do everything he can to establish and build trust, providing a better service to all communities, including naturally our Hispanic community,” Navarro said.