Susan Manheimer, who joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1984, went from working the streets as a cop to being the police chief of the city of San Mateo.

Manheimer's early police work included a stint as a police decoy, during which she was robbed 25 times, and participation in a sting that brought down scores of drug dealers. She spent much of her career in San Francisco's Tenderloin, and ultimately was named captain of the Tenderloin Task Force station.

In 2000 she was selected as chief of the San Mateo Police Department, which has 83 sworn officers. She is currently president of the California Police Chiefs' Association and a governor's appointee to the State Advisory Group for Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Crime Prevention.

Looking back at her career, Manheimer, 54, says, "I grew up on a steady diet of community service with an emphasis on social justice and equal rights." Her father was a city councilman in the north Bronx, and the house often was full of politicians and police brass. Eleanor Roosevelt stopped by once. So did New York Mayor Ed Koch, Manheimer recalls.

"My upbringing and experiences all helped drive me toward helping and protecting (people) and the social justice aspects of police work," she said. Her focus on social justice "was enhanced by my time at Saint Mary's," where in 1997 she graduated from the College's extended education program with a bachelor's degree in business management.

In 2002 she received a master's in education leadership at San Diego State University.

With a husband who is an accountant in the hotel industry and two children, Manheimer says she never could have completed her studies "without the unwavering support of my husband and extended family and the flexible, supportive program at Saint Mary's."

Her efforts, she says, flowed in part from her training in the "Lasallian tradition, which is about equalizing the playing field for those who did not have opportunities in life, giving them the support to succeed in life."

She raised her children to serve with her: "They helped pass out candy to Tenderloin kids on Halloween. They helped serve food to families at St. Anthony's dining room."

Manheimer's daughter is now an assistant prosecutor in San Mateo County, and her son is a first lieutenant in the Marines "defending our freedom in Afghanistan. I am very proud."

See other Women of Influence

40 Years/One Night, a "Gaela" celebration recognizing the 40 Influential Women of Saint Mary's, will be held on Sat., Nov. 6 in the Soda Center. It begins with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner, a raffle and a silent auction. The keynote speaker will be Kristine Carlson, co-author of the Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series. Go to stmarys-ca.edu/womeninphil for tickets and more information.

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