2 March 2018
Dear Chief Nisleit,
Welcome to your new position serving the residents of the City of San Diego. We hope and believe that you are a man of good will who is eager to serve, and we wish you every success.
You are coming to the job at a time when, despite the continued reductions in crime, the country and the city are increasingly polarized, and suspicion reigns amongst our population and the officers who serve them.
We ask that you bear some things in mind as you assume your duties. We ask that you make protecting and serving the population of San Diego your first priority. Of course we appreciate the service of your officers and recognize that they and your department deserve your support, but you must not protect them to the detriment of those you are sworn to serve.
We ask that you deal frankly and honestly with issues of race and bias. We ask that you be able to say the words, “The officers in the San Diego Police Department have biases;” an ability that eluded your predecessor. We ask that you not immediately dismiss race as a factor, either in crimes or interactions between officers and those they serve, as your predecessor has done. As we are a country and city in racial crisis, refusing to consider race and bias as factors in crimes or interactions between officers and the public they serve reveals resistance to deal frankly and honestly with race and bias.
We ask that you push for full implementation of recommendations in the SDSU report on Traffic Stops. The City Council may have chosen to ignore it, but you have the standing and moral authority to reopen the discussion. We ask that you demonstrate the leadership that the Council has failed to show.
We ask that you continue to train your officers in conflict de-escalation and the use of minimum necessary force. We ask that the culture of the SDPD be one of public service, not authoritarianism backed by lethal force. We ask that you aggressively deal with the officers in your Department who deal aggressively with civilians, and that you work to make the culture of the SDPD one of accountability, not one characterized by a wall of silence.
You have our support and our respect as you assume your duties. If you behave with forthrightness and honesty, if you do your best for all people of the City of San Diego, you will keep that support and respect. We look forward to working with you, now and into the future.
Dr André J. Branch
NAACP San Diego Branch