Susan Manheimer as San Mateo police chief, a position she retired from in 2019. (Photo/file)
Susan Manheimer as San Mateo police chief, a position she retired from in 2019. (Photo/file)

Oakland’s Jewish interim police chief retires, again

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UPDATED: Feb. 9, 10:45 a.m.

Oakland’s interim police chief Susan Manheimer retired on Feb. 7 after a 10-month stint with the department.

A congregant at Peninsula Temple Beth El in San Mateo, Manheimer was tapped to fill in for the leadership role last April after the city’s previous police chief, Anne Kirkpatrick, was fired by a civilian-run police commission.

Manheimer was originally hired for six months, but the commission extended her tenure by four months so it would have more time to conduct background checks on her replacement. Her contract was due to end this week.

“The overarching goal remained the one that was, in the end, most important, which was providing stability and leadership in a time of transition,” Manheimer said in an interview with J. “Which also, consequently, turned out to be a time of upheaval for policing in America and Oakland.”

During Manheimer’s 10 months as chief, she oversaw a city afflicted by multiple crises. Last month, the department said it was experiencing a “sharp increase” in violent crime, including 11 murder investigations compared with just one at the same time the previous year. And amid the summer’s protests surrounding racial justice and police brutality, activists filed a class action lawsuit in June against Manheimer’s department over certain crowd-control measures. In July, a federal judge restricted the city’s police from using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters. In November, the judge loosened some of his previous restrictions in response to fears surrounding election-related violence.

When asked about the city’s rising violence, Manheimer said it is a phenomenon similar to what other cities around the country are experiencing; she also said it’s been difficult to work on Oakland’s cease-fire strategy because of social distancing protocols. As for the department’s use of force measures, Manheimer acknowledged protesters’ “righteous rage” during the summer, but said the department could not address outbursts of violence “without using crowd-control techniques.”

Sgt. Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, described the year as “challenging” for Manheimer’s department in a post on Facebook.

“We were fortunate to have Chief Manheimer at the helm of OPD,” he said. “Her experience and commitment to Oakland residents and police officers alike guided us through tumultuous times.”

Manheimer was pulled out of retirement by Oakland’s police department after her 19-year post as San Mateo police chief ended in 2019. Before that, she worked for the San Francisco Police Department as a lieutenant and captain in the Tenderloin area.

Now that she is retired, Manheimer said she will start planning for a family trip to Israel after the pandemic ends. She said she is also lobbying the city of San Mateo to recognize Rabbi Dennis Eisner of Peninsula Temple Beth El, her congregation, for his service to the community.

“Oakland was a very big job,” she said. “It took a lot of focus and a lot of time.”

In an interview with J. in 2015, Manheimer said her Jewish upbringing in New York influenced her decision to go into public service.

“I was raised in New York City in a very Jewish area, and 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,” she said in the interview.

Manheimer’s replacement will be LeRonne Armstrong, an Oakland native and a 22-year veteran of the police department.

“Born + raised, tried + true, and ready to lead as we reimagine public safety and build safety + security in all neighborhoods,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a tweet about Armstrong.

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler was a staff writer at J. from 2019 to 2021.