City loses an officer known for being first 

Pioneering police Lt. Barbara Hammerman was the picture of integrity during her 21-year career in San Mateo, according to those who knew and worked with her.

Known for her enthusiastic smile and endless energy as well as her groundbreaking police work, Hammerman, 46, died at her Belmont home Sunday, more than two years after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

Among the long list of firsts credited to Hammerman is that of becoming the first female sergeant and later female lieutenant in San Mateo Police Department history. She was also the first policewoman to be assigned to a motorcycle unit, officials said.

From hours spent mentoring kids to work on domestic violence issues and efforts to speak out and raise money for cancer research, Hammerman touched people’s lives far beyond the streets of the city that she patrolled, said San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer.

Most important to Hammerman was her desire to make a difference, said Frances Grunder, a California senior assistant attorney general and Hammerman’s longtime domestic partner. "There were many times that Barbara and I would be walking around San Mateo and someone she had arrested would come up and thank her and tell her she saved their life," said Grunder, specifically citing a man who had been addicted to drugs.

It was Hammerman’s work that lead to the formation of a county domestic violence committee and annual reviews of domestic violence deaths, said Sheriff Don Horsley, who admitted trying to recruit Hammerman away from San Mateo about 10 years ago.

"She was a real inspirational person," Horsley said. "You’d follow her into any situation."

"[Barbara] had a deep compassion for people and compelling ideas that bounced with an enthusiasm that perpetually set them to motion, so that her spirit, although it will be greatly missed, will continue to echo in San Mateo in the years ahead," said Jerry Hill, President of the Board of Supervisors and a former San Mateo mayor.

Even after her diagnosis and nine-month prognosis in July 2004, Hammerman pushed the envelope. She volunteered for an experimental cancer treatment at UCSF, where Dr. Andrew Parsa has overseen 12 patients as they received a little-tested vaccine.

Her contribution as a patient, along with many others like her, is too often overlooked by the public, Parsa said. "I think there will come a day were we can turn a fatal brain tumor into a chronic care disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure" because of treatments like this, Parsa said.

He credited the treatment for contributing to Hammerman’s ability to continue to make public appearances and beat the odds long after her diagnosis.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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