Susan Manheimer in her San Mateo police chief uniform, a position she retired from last year. Manheimer has now taken a position as interim police chief of Oakland. (FILE PHOTO)
Susan Manheimer in her San Mateo police chief uniform, a position she retired from last year. Manheimer has now taken a position as interim police chief of Oakland. (FILE PHOTO)

Oakland’s interim top cop sees ‘social equity’ through Jewish lens

Oakland soon will have a new sheriff in town.

On Monday, Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that an offer had been made to Susan Manheimer — a career law-enforcement official interviewed by J. in 2015 — to lead the beleaguered police department of the Bay Area’s third-largest city, and that Manheimer had accepted the interim role.

Manheimer, a member of Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, says her Jewish upbringing helped lead her to a career in public service. She was raised in New York City where her father was a city councilman from the Bronx.

“My family marched in civil rights marches,” she told J. in 2015. “I’ve always been a practicing Jew who is very proud of the strong Jewish tradition of advocating for civil rights, social equity and serving others.”

Manheimer retired in December from 19 years as the first female police chief in San Mateo, a suburb of 105,000. Before that, she worked for 17 years as a lieutenant and captain with the San Francisco Police Department, focusing on the drug-heavy Tenderloin District.

Her retirement did not last long. Pending a routine state background check, Manheimer will step into her new role on April 6, overseeing a department destabilized by leadership changes in recent years. She will succeed interim chief Darren Allison, who took over last month for Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick after she was fired by the independent, civilian-run police commission (she reportedly plans to sue the city). Over the last four years, the department has seen seven chiefs, only two of them permanent.

I’ve always been a practicing Jew who is very proud of the strong Jewish tradition of advocating for civil rights, social equity and serving others.

In a statement, Manheimer said she was “honored and excited to step in at this time to assist the Oakland Police Department in meeting the unique challenges they face right now. My 35 years in Bay Area law enforcement have given me an abiding respect for the OPD and its unwavering commitment to the City of Oakland.”

Though Jewish police officers are not the norm, in 2007, a collection of law enforcement and criminal justice professionals formed the Northern California branch of Shomrim, Hebrew for “guardians.”

The mission of the regional Shomrim, based in Sebastopol, is to bring together Jewish law enforcement professionals, “encourage the religious spirit of the members… and work towards the welfare of all.”

The interim chief position will last for six months, and can be extended to a year by the police commission.

Manheimer will face challenges overseeing a police department in a city of 425,000 with high rates of reported crime. Though gun violence in Oakland has dropped sharply, overall crime rates remain some of the highest in the state.

According to a recent report from SafeWise, a home security company frequently cited by news outlets, Oakland ranked last in California’s safe cities list, with annual rates of 12.7 violent crimes and 53.9 property crimes per 1,000 people.

In 2018, Oakland had the 12th-highest crime rate in the country for cities with more than 100,000 people, according to information provided by the Oakland Police Department. In violent crime it ranked 16th nationwide.

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.