Assistant Chief David Nisleit to replace Chief Shelley Zimmerman

SAN DIEGO – David Nisleit, a three-decade veteran of the San Diego Police Department, was named Thursday by Mayor Kevin Faulconer as the next chief of the city's law enforcement agency.

Assistant Chief David Nisleit will take the helm of the San Diego Police Department when Chief Shelley Zimmerman retires in March.

Nisleit, currently one of the department's assistant chiefs, will succeed Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who has served in the post for four years. Zimmerman, who has been with the department for 35 years, is set to step down in March.

"SDPD is poised to enter a new era of excellence," Faulconer said in announcing Nisleit's promotion during a late-morning City Hall news conference.

Watch the full announcement

Nisleit followed in his father's footsteps as a longtime member of the SDPD and has served in the agency's gang, robbery, narcotics, homicide, sex crimes, SWAT, internal affairs and special operations units.

During the search for Zimmerman's successor, city officials solicited citizen input at a half-dozen public hearings 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 mayor's decision, Faulconer said.

Among his priorities is achieving full staffing in the police department by casting a wide net, but focusing on local candidates and continuing to bolster community policing programs, Nisleit said.

"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 the community wanted to see increased accountability, continued transparency and a commitment to community policing. I'm proud to say ... they have been the core principals that the San Diego Police Department has been know 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, too, named achieving a full roster as one of his goals. He said that an approved new police contract with a competitive pay package, coupled with a national recruitment and marketing effort, will achieve this goal by 2020.

Nisleit said he plans to build on the legacy of Zimmerman, whom he considers a mentor and friend.

She said Nisleit "is an exceptional, proven leader who has given his all to our department and our city."

Councilman David Alvarez criticized the search process as relying on "secret" panels, a similar stance to that 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 they did when the council confirmed the last police chief (Zimmerman). The failure of leadership has depleted the department," Alvarez said. "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."

A half-dozen finalists from across the country were interviewed by the panels. Their names will not be released to protect their privacy, a spokesman for Faulconer said.

Nisleit has a master's degree in business administration and management from the University of Redlands and completed the FBI's National Academy. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, president of the San Diego SWAT Officers Association and sits on the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, according to the mayor's office.