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San Diego is getting a new police chief. Here’s what some La Jollans want

Councilmember Joe LaCava, District 1,.

What do San Diego residents want in their next police chief? For many at a La Jolla meeting, it’s integrity, community presence and humility.

Current San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit is retiring in June after 36 years of service; the city has begun recruiting for his replacement.

Nisleit “will be leaving very big shoes to fill for that next police chief,” said San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava, who cohosted the Jan 11 forum with the city in La Jolla for his District 1. 

Other districts have had or will have their own feedback forums.

Each forum gave attendees the opportunity to share priorities for the next police chief via group discussions about desired backgrounds, philosophy on policing and more, LaCava said.

“District 1 is very invested in public safety, in your public safety,” he added.

“The police chief obviously sets the tone,” said San Diego Chief Operating Officer Eric Dargan. 

In San Diego, that tone comes down to addressing the needs of “a very large city with a very diverse population,” said Stacey Stevenson with Bob Murray & Associates, an executive recruiter hired to aid in the hiring process.

Feedback from all district forums plus an online survey will be considered when panel interviews with candidates begin in March, Stevenson said. 

A final selection will be presented to the City Council in March or April; the councilmembers will confirm the selection ahead of the new police chief being sworn in in June.

At the District 1 meeting, table groups discussed their answers to three questions that concerned the most important characteristics and qualities of a police chief; how police engage and interact with San Diego’s communities; and a police chief’s priorities. 

A handout with the questions provided by the city also listed potential answers to the questions. 

The groups’ comments highlighted the collective importance of transparency, active community presence and engagement and humility, while also noting the need for integrity. 

La Jolla resident Larry Davidson said the city should look for the quantifiable qualities mentioned in the handout such as “a proven, established, credible and competent track record,” being a strong communicator and strong leader who can build and maintain credibility. 

“In the communities where there are obviously different issues, different problems, different questions, …  the candidate needs to be able to address all of that and [understand] the communities that we have in San Diego,” Davidson said.

Strong leadership is also important to La Jollans like Bill Podway, who said his table discussed adding to the suggested list of characteristics “a chief who ensures that the entire department will have a deep respect for cultures in the community and work with the other police departments” in San Diego County to strengthen the entire region.

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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