Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Susan Manheimer, San Mateo Police Chief | KALW

Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Susan Manheimer, San Mateo Police Chief

Jun 22, 2010

In Episode #16, Susan Manheimer, San Mateo Police Chief and California Police Chiefs Association President, discusses why she became a police officer, becoming the first woman Chief in San Mateo and first woman President of the Police Chiefs Association, using community policing to reduce crime, collaborating regionally with the other Bay Area Chiefs and more.

Manheimer Interview Highlights

Manheimer on Taking Operational Assignments as a Woman

“I really enjoyed staying operational. I felt as a woman it was important not to be niched into the sort of support roles or domestic violence or women and children criminal investigations, and really make my bones, if you will, as a rough and tumble cop and do the hard work to show and get the credibility with the department.”

Manheimer on Building Trust with the Community in San Mateo

“The day that I realized that we truly had made a change [in San Mateo] was when I came to a community meeting and we had some great community outreach workers that we really put there recognizing that we needed some facilitators to help with this. And one individual had a past gang history, he had credibility within the community, and we put together this first really big community meeting. And I was pleased to see that he had all these translator headsets there and translators, and I said, ‘Well, how wonderful you’re going to translate for everyone,’ and he said, ‘No Chief, I’m going to translate for you.’ And so myself, and the mayor, and the city attorney, city manager, and others put the headsets on, and we had to walk in an immigrant’s shoes at that point frankly, because we were the ones that weren’t privy to the conversation, we were the ones who were waiting for the translator to tell us what was going on. And it was a profound change. It was then that the community really started to trust us.”

Manheimer on Working with the Community in San Francisco’s Tenderloin

“The difference in the Tenderloin is the whole web and network of others who are so dedicated: the non-profits, the service providers, the faith community. Working with them just made it truly an opportunity for change there. The cops need to operate with the support of the community and everyone else. As I held community meetings, it wasn’t just the police standing up there telling everyone about the crime that was happening. It was allowing the community to tell us, the police, about the crime and the quality of life issues that were happening that were concerning them. And then having all of the different resources, to expect the city service to really align together. So at that table were Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Mental Health, and Health Department, and all of the different things that contributed and had to be part of the solution: Public Works for lighting, Parks and Rec for cleaning up the parks, and Mental Health for dealing with the substance abuse.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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