Don Casimere's appointment as Sacramento's first director of the Office of Police Accountability came at the height of the nation's racial profiling scandals.
From the day he arrived Casimere began meeting with community leaders, often late into the night. He was on call around the clock to respond to police shootings and other incidents.
His first big test came in 2001 when police mistook the cell phone a black man was carrying for a gun and shot him dead. The police chief defended the cops involved. In a dramatic showdown at a packed city council meeting, Casimere contradicted the chief. He found no evidence of racial bias but he said the shooting could have been prevented. His office persuaded police to upgrade training and change their shooting policies.
A black man, tall, soft spoken and an ex-cop himself, Casimere worked hard to establish credibility both with citizens and rank and file cops. He succeeded. During his tenure, police complaints in this city declined by almost half, to just 117 last year.
Don Casimere served Sacramento well. He'll be hard to replace.
Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.