Bruce Nelson was born in Oakland, CA and was raised in Berkeley and El Cerrito, CA. He is a third generation Californian. He attended El Cerrito schools and is a graduate of Golden Gate University in San Francisco and the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in Quantico, VA. He is a retired police captain having spent 30 years with the El Cerrito Police Department. After retirement, he spent 2 years as the director a child advocacy center in Contra Costa County and also consulted in local government relations.