Former Alameda County Charles Plummer
was first elected in 1986 and served 20 years.

Charles Plummer, who served 20 of his 54 years in law enforcement serving as Alameda County sheriff, passed away Monday. He was 87.

Stern in a paternal way, Plummer appeared to perfectly fit the mold of a mid-20th Century law man. Referring to his first job in law enforcement, serving in the Berkeley Police Department in the 1960s, Plummer remarked at his retirement ceremony that he wished he would have been more firm with protesters at the famed 1969 People’s Park riots.

“I wish I would have hit some people harder during the riots,” Plummer said in 2007. “I regret that.”

Before becoming Alameda County sheriff, Plummer served 10 years as Hayward police chief, starting in 1976. It was during his time that Plummer implemented simple guidelines for police behavior that he termed, “Cardinal Sins.” This rules remain a standard in police training.

The rules demanded, “honesty from all employees and prohibited bigotry, the acceptance of bribes, and the use of controlled substance,” according to a 2006 commendation in the Congressional Record. “Many officers felt that adherence to these rules helped build a bond of trust between law enforcement and the communities they served.”

Elected sheriff in 1986, Plummer tenure began with the opening of the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. He served in the position for 20 years before retiring. He was replaced by current Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

“Today we mourn the loss of an American Hero,” said Ahern. “Sheriff Plummer was one of the most dedicated and respected law enforcement leaders in our Nation.”

Plummer’s advocacy, however, continued after leaving the sheriff’s office. He remained connected to Alameda County politics, often making appearances before the Board of Supervisors in support and opposition of various issues.

“Charley was strong on law and order and also very passionate about serving the needs of those incarcerated,” said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. “He touched many lives and had a hand in laying a firm foundation at the Sheriff’s Office that’s still in place today.”