Police chief retires, says her departure was unrelated to red-light camera problems

San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer. Photo provided by the city of San Mateo.

By the Daily Post staff

Susan Manheimer is retiring after 19 years as San Mateo’s police chief, days after the city announced it was refunding or dismissing nearly 1,000 red-light camera tickets because of a discrepancy in the timing of the yellow light.

She said that her retirement has been in the works for the past two months and wasn’t related to the problems with the red-light camera program, which has since been canceled by the city.

On Thursday, the city announced it was refunding 985 tickets that had been issued by its controversial red-light cameras and was pulling the plug on the cameras. The yellow light on the stoplights was too short, causing motorists to get red-light tickets unfairly.

She said the timing of the yellow light was the responsibility of the city’s engineering department.

Manheimer was a staunch defender of the red-light camera program over the years. In 2009, the Daily Post used video equipment to show that the yellow lights were too short. Manheimer blasted the Post’s report, saying it was inaccurate.

In 2015, NBC Bay Area did substantially the same story. Instead of denying that report, the city threw out 948 tickets and re-set the yellow lights.

The revelation last week that the yellow light was, again, timed incorrectly, was the third time in 10 years it had come to light that the devices were improperly ticketing motorists.

The press release about Manheimer’s retirement doesn’t mention the red-light camera fiasco and instead emphasizes her achievements.

“Under her leadership the San Mateo Police Department earned national acclaim for innovative crime prevention, juvenile and homeless outreach programs that have been widely adopted throughout the country,” the city’s press release said.

She was dedicated to keeping juveniles out of the justice system and helped to establish the PAL and Police Cadet Programs to keep youth on the right track.

“Chief Susan Manheimer has served both her community and county law enforcement with unmatched leadership and service,” said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. “The police department has grown to one of the most innovative and community-oriented agencies in California under Susan’s guidance. The very low crime rate in San Mateo is due in substantial part to her work as police chief.”

Manheimer will retire at the end of the year. She was a San Francisco police captain in the Tenderloin District before she was appointed as San Mateo’s chief in 2000.

In 2016, Manheimer considered running for San Mateo County Sheriff. At the time, incumbent Greg Munks had decided to retire rather than run for re-election. His second-in-command, Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos, wanted the job.

Manheimer said that several people urged her to run including Congresswoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo.

However, the county Board of Supervisors decided to replace Munks with Bolanos, who would serve until the 2018 election. If anyone were to run, they’d face an uphill battle trying to unseat an appointed incumbent. So Manheimer decided at that point not to run and threw her support behind Bolanos.


  1. When Susan became chief, she pulled an officer off of patrol and had him become her personal chauffeur. I guess she had somebody drive her around when she was a Captain in San Francisco. Well, word of this drifted over to the city administration which wasn’t pleased. Long story short, it wasn’t long before she was driving herself places. But the incident said a lot about her.

    • How can one find out if a person is entitled to a refund ? We though my mom’s citation was not right but we were told to just pay the ticket, so she did just that.

  2. san Mateo has a similar camera at Millbrea Ave & Rollins Rd. Before 2019 there was no sign, drivers could turn right to Millbrea station from Millbrea Ave using right of way when there was a red light, in early 2019, they put a discreet sign, “no Turn on Red”, lots of BART commuters were caught by the camera, and each ticket cost $530 plus traffic school. After couple month, now the sign has been changed to something like “turning right on red is allowed after stop first”. What kind of rule government issues like that? Changing all the time and misleading people, even predatory just for collecting fines?

  3. Growing up in San Mateo, I’ve seen how our city has been positively impacted by Chief Susan after she was appointed. She was the angel that was sent to save our homeless population, keep children out of prison, and foster community engagement like no other police chief. As a young man, my son was misguided and went through Chief Susan’s juvenile diversion program. Thanks to Chief Susan, Jack was able to get back on track and is now a graduate of Harvard Law 2018! My family owes Chief Susan and the San Mateo Police Department for being there for us. She has big shoes to fill and I sincerely hope the City selects a like-minded person who can carry on her legacy. San Mateo will miss her dearly!

  4. This article is a bit confusing. Is it about her retirement or the red-light camera? I’m sad to see Chief Manheimer retire, but thrilled she got rid of the red light program. I love her even more now!! What a wonderful chief of police she has been. 19 years in San Mateo and she’s done wonders for our community. Last year, she held my hand at National Night Out and told me she would do everything in her power to bring the man to justice who raped my daughter. She delivered on her promise and I’ll be forever grateful to her. God broke the mold with Chief Manheimer. Please don’t retire!

  5. [Comment deleted. Commenter is using two different names in this string. Please stick to the same name. We don’t want sock puppets.]

  6. Chief Suzy has had an incredible career. She’s been available for our neighborhood watch board, the Police Activities League, and helped a tremendous amount on youth issues since she started two decades ago. I’ve never known a better chief and I hardly think anyone could replace such a gem. She’s touched many lives in her tenure and I know Chief Suzy has paved the path for San Mateo’s future top cop.

  7. Some of the posts above seem suspicious. They were supposedly posted by “Joan Mondavi” (a name somebody drinking a Robert Mondavi wine might come up with), “John Roberts” (the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) and “Marianne Williamson” (same name as the loopy New Age Democratic candidate).

  8. Those cameras stole so much money from people, for that she should have been fired and put in jail. it’s terrible that they had to rig them just to get more tickets … where’s the u.s. justice dept?

  9. Crime has gone down? No, just the opposite. And the gangs are everywhere. The gang graffiti stays up, and that lets the gangsters know they own this town.

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