Former Alameda County Sheriff Charles C. "Charley" Plummer died at his home in Hayward early Sunday evening at the age of 87, according to sheriff's officials.
Members of his immediate family reported that his passing was peaceful, according to sheriff's spokesmen.
A native of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, Plummer was a burly and outspoken figure whose 54-year career in law enforcement began when he became a Berkeley police officer on Nov. 1, 1952, and included stints as the police chief in Berkeley and Hayward.
He was elected sheriff in a four-way race in 1986, taking office in January of 1987, and was re-elected three times before he retired in January 2007 at the age of 76.
In an interview shortly before he retired, Plummer recalled that in Berkeley he rose through the ranks and was acting chief in 1973 and 1974, when he oversaw the early stages of the investigation into the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. He also was field commander during the Berkeley riots in the 1960s.
He then was appointed to be Hayward's police chief on June 1, 1976.
Plummer said in an earlier interview, "I was raised in the Depression and saw lots of misery, but there was a tremendous work ethic and there was no welfare."
Plummer was a lumberjack and a steelworker as a youth and held a variety of part-time jobs, such as being a bouncer and a movie theater usher, to supplement the small salary of $340 a month that he earned as a rookie Berkeley police officer.
Plummer said he was proud that the Alameda County Sheriff's Office was one of the first law enforcement agencies to contract with a private healthcare system for inmates.
Plummer said he had five "cardinal rules" for his large number of employees. They forbid employees from accepting gratuities, even a cup of coffee, uttering racial or religious slurs, abusing drugs or alcohol and lying or engaging in sexual harassment.
Alameda County leaders said Monday that they are saddened by Plummer's death.
County Administrator Susan Muranishi said, "Sheriff Plummer -- icon and legend -- was a respected leader, mentor, colleague and friend to many, and will be remembered with fond memories and appreciation."
Board of Supervisors President Wilma Chan said, "Charley was the best sheriff we will ever see, law enforcement with compassion and humor. I am sure he will continue to watch and protect from above!"
"I am so sorry to hear of his passing away," said Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district includes Pleasanton. "Charley was a fantastic person and quite a sheriff, bigger than life! May his soul rest in peace of the Lord! We were all enriched by Sheriff Plummer. Please give my sympathy to his family."
Supervisor Scott Haggerty added, "Charley was strong on law and order and also very passionate about serving the needs of those incarcerated. He touched many lives and had a hand in laying a firm foundation at the Sheriff's Office that's still in place today."
"I'm deeply grateful for his mentorship when I first came to the Board of Supervisors. I, along with my fellow board members and the citizens of Alameda County, owe him a debt of gratitude for his entire body of work and years of dedicated of service," Haggerty said.
Plummer is survived by his daughter, Pamela Rossi (Gale), sons Larry (Lauren) and Chris (Yvonne), eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Plummer's wife, Norma, died last June.
Sheriff's officials said that at Plummer's request there will be a private burial ceremony for him and there won't be a public memorial.