Mayor of San Diego Names Next Chief of Police

Created: 02 February, 2018
Last update: 20 April, 2022

By Alexandra Mendoza

San Diego Police Assistant Chief David Nisleit was named as the next Chief of Police by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

His appointment follows a monthslong, nationwide search that included a series of community forums held throughout San Diego where panelists had the chance to voice their opinions as to who they felt should head the city’s law enforcement agency.

In the end, the Mayor selected Nisleit, who has three decades of service under his belt including leadership roles in several SDPD divisions, such as the gang unit, SWAT, and Homeless Outreach.

He has overseen security at over 1,000 special events in San Diego, including Comic-Con, sporting events, the Women’s March, and the San Diego LGBT Pride Festival, among many others.

If ratified by City Council, Nisleit would take office on March 1, when current Chief Shelley Zimmerman will be retiring from SDPD after 35 years of service.

Nisleit already committed to keeping San Diego among the safest cities in the United States, as well as to addressing the officer recruitment and retention issue that has plagued the department in recent years.

“Until the crime rate reaches zero, my job is to continue strengthening our partnerships to reduce violent crime,” he said at a press conference. “I want for everyone in San Diego to feel and be safe in every neighborhood.”

Once in Office, he plans on launching a nationwide campaign to attract and recruit new officers so that the department can reach full staffing by 2020. According to City of San Diego information, there are currently 200 unfilled positions.

“I want to hire a very diverse group of officers,” said Nisleit, adding that although he will search throughout the U.S., he would favor the hiring of local talent.

Faulconer stated that he was convinced that Nisleit was the ideal person for the job.

“He is ethical, professional, and to him, protecting this city and its people is his life,” he said.

52-year-old Nisleit was one of six finalists interviewed by a panel of community leaders, including San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the Tourism Authority, the LGBTQ Latino Coalition of San Diego County, the Human Relations Commission, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Mexican American Business and Professional Association, and the San Diego Unified School District, among others.

“We need someone who not only understand how important diversity is, but who respects it and has a police department that is part of his DNA,” said the Mayor.

Outgoing Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman considered her would-be successor as “an exceptional leader who has given his everything to the Department and the City.”

Councilman David Alvarez stressed the importance of a transparent confirmation process during which he hopes the community’s concerns will be addressed.

“We now have the responsibility of asking this person questions transparently and publicly to see whether he is prepared, in this case, to address the situation regarding how many officers have left, but also other topics, such as now having the federal government asking police departments to help on immigration issues,” Alvarez said.

Although collaboration between police departments and immigration agencies was limited after the passing of California’s SB-54, the Councilman reiterated that he will seek a commitment from the new Chief of Police.

On the topic, Nisleit told the media that his priority would be to safeguard the people of San Diego, regardless of their immigration status.

“We are not here to do immigration or deportations; I am here to keep the community safe,” Nisleit said.