Remembered for kindness and leadership, former Alameda County sheriff Charles Plummer dies at 87

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Former Alameda County sheriff Charles Plummer, remembered for his generosity to the community and leadership in law enforcement, died March 4 at 87.

Plummer served 54 years in law enforcement, beginning as a Berkeley police officer in 1952. He eventually rose to the status of acting chief in Berkeley and later chief of police in Hayward. He served as the Alameda County Sheriff for 20 years, from 1986 until he retired in 2007.

Describing Plummer as a “brilliant, talented and experienced law enforcement professional,” Richard Valle, Alameda County supervisor for District Two, said he got to know Plummer around the time of Plummer’s retirement.

Plummer would get a stack of $2 bills from the bank each week to hand out, according to Richard Lucia, Alameda County undersheriff. Plummer distributed the bills to children, homeless people and many other people he interacted with, always in a “kind and loving way.”

Roger Power, Plummer’s former colleague at the Hayward Police Department, remembered Plummer’s work ethic and noted that he tended to come in early and leave late. After Plummer ran for Alameda County Sheriff and the two were no longer colleagues, Power’s and Plummer’s families enjoyed dinner together every Saturday for 20 years.

“We talked about everything,” Power said. “He became my very best friend. We often referred to each other as brothers.”

In addition to Plummer’s generosity, Power also said he appreciated Plummer’s strong leadership, adding that he “demanded perfection and made people live up to their potential.”

Motivated to elevate the actions, conduct and policy of the Hayward Police Department, Plummer sought accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA. After securing Hayward Police Department’s accreditation, Plummer initiated the process for the Alameda County Sheriff’s office, which became the first sheriff’s office to receive the national CALEA accreditation.

Working in Berkeley during the 1960s, Plummer was at the forefront of the “tumultuous times,” including the Free Speech Movement and Vietnam War protests, according to Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

While Plummer was regarded as kind and gracious, Kelly remembered Plummer’s strong beliefs.

“Plummer walked in (to Hayward Police Department) and started kicking that place into shape and bringing us to modern law enforcement standpoints,” Powers said.

Plummer crafted “Cardinal Sins,” a code of conduct for officers, with expectations such as never lying or accepting gratuities. Plummer’s employees read and signed the Cardinal Sins, and faced consequences for violating them, according to Kelly. The current Alameda County Sheriff continues the tradition, carrying on Plummer’s legacy.

“He walked in a room and he lit up the room,” Kelly said. “You knew he was someone special. He was tough, but very fair. He was a very good man. And we’re absolutely going to miss him. He did a tremendous amount of work. He is a modern law enforcement legend.”

Contact Ella Smith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @EllaSmithCA.