Veteran lawman David Nisleit, who has climbed the
ranks of the San Diego Police Department for three decades, was named Thursday by
Mayor Kevin Faulconer as the next head cop of the nation's eighth-largest city.
Nisleit, currently one of the agency's assistant chiefs, will succeed
Chief Shelley Zimmerman upon confirmation by the full City Council at a yet-to-
be scheduled meeting.
Zimmerman, who has served in the post for four years, is set to step
down in March, ending a 35-year tenure with the department.
"SDPD is poised to enter a new era of excellence," Faulconer said in
announcing Nisleit's pending promotion during a late-morning City Hall news
Nisleit, 52, followed in his father's footsteps as a venerable member
of the department and has served in the agency's gang, robbery, narcotics,
homicide, sex crimes, SWAT, internal affairs and special operations units.
While conducting a nationwide search for Zimmerman's successor, city
officials solicited citizen input during a half-dozen public meetings and
received about 2,000 online surveys from residents.
Nisleit "was overwhelmingly the consensus choice of both the
community and professional panels" that offered guidance for the decision, the
Among his priorities in the post, Nisleit told reporters, will be
achieving full department staffing by casting a "wide net" for recruits
while focusing on local candidates and continuing to bolster community-policing
"With the strength of staffing levels back, we will be able to
improve our response times to all calls and continue to reduce our already low
crime rate," Nisleit said. "What I heard loud and clear during the community
forums was (that) the community wanted to see increased accountability,
continued transparency and a commitment to community policing. I'm proud to say
... (those) have been the core principals that the San Diego Police Department
has been known for. It's my responsibility as your chief to find unique ways to
continue building upon these values."
There are currently more than 200 vacant positions in the department,
which has not been fully staffed in over a decade.
Faulconer predicted that an approved new police contract with a
competitive pay package, coupled with a national recruitment and marketing
effort, will have the ranks of the department completely filled out again by
Nisleit said he plans to build on the legacy of Zimmerman, whom he
considers a mentor and friend.
The outgoing chief, for her part, described Nisleit as "an
exceptional, proven leader who has given his all to our department and our
In a prepared statement, Jack Schaeffer, president of the San Diego
Police Officers Association, declared that Faulconer had "hit a home run with
"Assistant Chief Nisleit has had an exemplary career with our
department, has deep roots in our community and will be a tremendous leader for
our members," Schaeffer stated. "During the course of his 30-year career,
Nisleit has built important relationships throughout our department and
understands the unique needs of San Diego neighborhoods."
On a more critical note, City Councilman David Alvarez contended that
the recently concluded process of searching for the city's next police chief
had relied on non-public backroom deliberations, a similar stance to those held
by Alliance San Diego and the local American Civil Liberties Union branch.
Alvarez said he would push for Nisleit to be specific about his plans
for the department during the confirmation process.
"The San Diego Police Department has fewer officers today than (it)
did when the council confirmed (Zimmerman)," the councilman said. "The
failure of leadership has depleted the department. The public needs to hear
detailed plans from the chief on how he will address the police department's
staffing crisis. Unlike the secret panels established to conduct the search,
the confirmation process for the new chief must be transparent."
The recruitment boards interviewed a half-dozen finalists from across
the country. The names of those runner-up candidates were withheld to protect
their privacy, according to a spokesman for the mayor.
Nisleit, married with three grown children, holds a master's degree in
business administration and management from the University of Redlands and
completed the FBI National Academy.
A resident of the Sabre Springs neighborhood off Interstate 15, the
soon-to-be top cop is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of
Police, the San Diego SWAT Officers Association and the Regional Task Force on