David Nisleit wants to focus on building community trust as the new Chief of the San Diego Police Department. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego’s new police chief says he has a new approach to building community trust.

Selected last week by Mayor Kevin Faulconer to succeed retiring Chief Shelley Zimmerman, Assistant Chief David Nisleit will take the helm of the San Diego Police Department next month.

Nisleit sat down in the podcast studio with co-hosts Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis to discuss the status of the department’s staffing shortage, his plan to engage the community in a conversation on racial profiling and his hopes to recommit to community policing.

Along with hiring more police officers who are native to the region, Nisleit plans to focus his efforts on building trust with community members. One of the main areas of focus surrounds growing concerns of racial profiling.

The San Diego Police Department recently faced backlash after a San Diego State University study found some evidence of bias in the department towards Hispanic and Black drivers who were three times more likely to be pulled over. But records later obtained by Voice of San Diego showed that a draft copy of the study was far more aggressive than the one presented to City Council on November 2016.

Zimmerman has previously said that enhanced training will help police officers ignore their natural biases, but Neislet wants to take it a step further.

“We’re going to be very transparent about it,” Neislet said. “We do need to look at this and if there’s a way we can improve that perception or improve that reality for folks, then it’s my job to make that happen.”

He said he took the findings of the SDSU study seriously and looks forward to new data the department will collect as required by a new state law taking effect on July 1.

“We’re doing a lot of training, and the whole areas about cultural diversity, implicit bias, non-bias policing, procedural justice,” he said. “I’m very aware of the disparities especially when it talks about searches and so some of the variables that we need to look at is to kind of get more into depth of of how that came about.”

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