After more than 19 years at the helm of the San Mateo Police Department, Police Chief Susan Manheimer announced Tuesday she will retire at the end of 2019, marking the end of a more than 30-year career in law enforcement.
Known for developing a model for community policing since she was appointed to the city’s top law enforcement spot in 2000, Manheimer has earned national acclaim for shaping crime prevention, juvenile justice and homeless outreach programs later adopted throughout San Mateo County, according to a city press release.
Having set the highest standards for policing, Manheimer has been an innovator in tackling issues in juvenile justice, community policing and domestic violence, noted County Manager Mike Callagy, who previously served as San Mateo’s deputy police chief. Callagy commended Manheimer for not only representing San Mateo but also becoming a recognized voice for policing at the state and national levels.
“Chief Manheimer always set the highest standards for others to emulate,” he said in the release. “As the chief retires, her leadership throughout San Mateo County will be greatly missed, but her legacy will live on through those who served under her as well as those in the numerous organizations that she lent her time, talent and expertise to.”
Before serving as San Mateo’s police chief, Manheimer served as both a lieutenant and captain in the San Francisco Police Department’s Tenderloin District, where she became a mentor to several aspiring woman police officers, according to the release.
Manheimer’s interest in keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system helped drive the establishment of San Mateo’s Youth Services Bureau, which supports youth through school resource officers, gang suppression, diversion programs and the Police Activities League and programs like the city’s Police Activities League and Cadet Program. Under her leadership, the Police Activities League, or PAL, has aimed to create bonds between police officers and youth through sports, cultural, education and gang-resistance programs, according to the release.
Deputy Mayor Maureen Freschet, who is also a PAL board member, said few may realize how many young lives at risk have been put on a positive track during Manheimer’s tenure.
“She has galvanized the community around PAL, and has been instrumental in rallying local support and major funding to expand our reach and invest in the future of our kids,” she said in the release.
With a focus on community engagement, Manheimer has been an active member of the Rotary Club of San Mateo, a founding member of the Tongan Interfaith Council, a board director of the San Mateo branch of NAACP and on the San Mateo County Juvenile Justice Commission, among other groups. She also initiated the San Mateo Countywide Gang Task Force and the San Mateo Homeless Outreach Team, both of which have been replicated throughout the county, according to the release.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe credited Manheimer with leading one of the most innovative and community-oriented agencies in California and serving her community and county law enforcement with unmatched leadership and service.
“The very low crime rate in San Mateo is due in substantial part to her work as police chief,” he said in the release. “The District Attorney’s Office will greatly miss our collaboration and friendship with Chief Susan Manheimer.”
Manheimer’s efforts to connect with her community were not lost on resident Anna Kuhre, president emeritus of the San Mateo United Homeowners Association, or SMUHA. In recognition of Manheimer’s dedication to San Mateo’s diverse neighborhoods, SMUHA honored Manheimer in 2012 with the title of Super Chief Manheimer for seeming to know everything and be in all places at one time, remembered Kuhre, who noted residents of San Mateo always slept well with Manheimer at the helm of their police department and that she was known to many as the “woman of steel with a heart of gold.”
“It was her vigilance and concern that helped to build strong bonds and relationships between our neighborhoods and our Police Department,” Kuhre said in the release. “Her exuberance and dedication made San Mateo the safest city on the Peninsula. As she retires, she carries our admiration and deep affection.”
In addition to her many responsibilities within the San Mateo community, Manheimer sought opportunities to influence law enforcement policy and practice at the state and national level, becoming the first woman to serve as president of the California Police Chiefs Association and the San Mateo County Chiefs and Sheriffs Association. She has also served on several state, national and international boards focused on best practices in policing and community engagement, according to the release.
California Police Chief Association President Ron Lawrence noted Manheimer was awarded the organization’s top honor for her contributions to law enforcement over the years.
“California is losing a legend with the retirement of Chief Susan Manheimer,” he said in the release. “Chief Manheimer has a reputation as a strong leader and an outspoken supporter of our organization.”
According to the release, the city will launch a nationwide search for a new police chief and the selection process is expected to take several months to allow for extensive community outreach. City Manager Drew Corbett said replacing Manheimer will be no small challenge given the vital role she has played in the community.
“Through her leadership she’s fostered a top-notch and highly-trained organization that will continue to serve our community well,” he said in the release.
Born in the Bronx, Manheimer developed a commitment to serving her community at a young age while watching her father serve as a city councilman. She said ever since she was a young girl she saw police officers as heroes and wanted to serve in the profession to help those in need and enhance the quality of life in her community, according to the release.
While pursuing a career in law enforcement, Manheimer earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in business administration and raised two children, attorney Sarah Burdick and Major Jesse Burdick, who is in the U.S. Marines, according to the release.
As a San Mateo resident, Manheimer intends to remain active in the community and said she is thankful for the chance to fulfill her dream in San Mateo.
“I will always be profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have served with the extraordinary men and women of the San Mateo Police Department who give their all to keep this community safe and promote the quality of life for all its residents,” she said in the release.
Mayor Diane Papan said Manheimer served San Mateo with distinction and described her as the consummate law enforcement professional whose effectiveness is anchored by the boundless humanity she shared with everyone she encounters.
“She has left an indelible imprint on the safety of our city with her innovative ways of promoting a strong connection between the public and our police department,” said Papan in the release. “We are profoundly grateful for her years of dedication to our community’s well-being.”
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