Feedback on Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s choice of veteran lawman David Nisleit as the next police chief was largely positive Monday at the first of two City Council public confirmation hearings, with representatives from a range of groups describing the current assistant chief as a leader with integrity who is dedicated to building relationships in the community he serves.
Critics focused not on the qualities of Nisleit, but took the opportunity to speak about their concerns on the lack of diversity in the department’s highest ranks and implored the council to push Nisleit for specifics about how he would strengthen trust with communities of color, address bias and improve transparency and accountability.
Several speakers also said reforms are needed to give more civilian oversight of the department.
Nisleit, 52, was selected by Faulconer earlier this month as the successor to Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who is set to retire in March. His nomination must be confirmed by a majority vote of the council. The public hearing on his appointment will continue Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., where the council will question Nisleit before taking a vote.
Nisleit has served in the department’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 input from the public during a half-dozen meetings and received about 2,000 online surveys from residents. Faulconer also sought the input of advisory boards of community leaders and city executives.
The names of the half-dozen finalists interviewed by those boards will not be made public due to privacy considerations, according to Faulconer’s office.
Nisleit was the overwhelming choice of those boards, city officials said.
District Attorney Summer Stephan, former District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and representatives from the United African American Ministerial Action Council and Latino, Pacific Islander and black police officers associations put their support behind Nisleit on Tuesday.
“We depend on their good work,” Stephan said. “What we require is integrity, trust, competence and leadership at the San Diego Police Department and this is exactly what Chief Nisleit provides.”
Maria Cortez, a 45-year City Heights resident, said Nisleit is focused on community policing.
“We need somebody that is there for the community. He has always been there for the community,” she said. “The nation should take a look at us in City Heights and see how we work with the police department and how the police department works with us.”
Others, however, said that the council should ask Nisleit to put in writing his specific plans to address important issues facing the department such as the recruitment, promotion and retention of people of color and women.
“There’s a lack of color in everything that has to do with SDPD,” Francine Maxwell said. “I am asking you to dissect the word ‘diversity’ when people stand here and tell you that we have diversity.”
Mallory Webb, president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s youth council, said that she too wanted specifics — about how Nisleit plans to address bias in policing and connect with youth of color in neighborhoods such as Southeast San Diego.
Others raised concerns about cooperation between police officers and immigration officials and racial profiling in the department.
–City News Service
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