Addiction Recovery Group Says Co-Founder — And Now Fired Gloucester Police Chief — Is No Longer Involved

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In a July 6 file photo, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello talks to media outside the White House. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
In a July 6 file photo, Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello talks to media outside the White House. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Many are expressing shock and sadness over the firing of Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello this week. The group Campanello started to help substance users get treatment says the chief is no longer involved as he sorts out his personal and professional problems.

PAARI Seeks To 'Move On'

The group Campanello co-founded is known as PAARI — Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative. More than 150 police departments around the country are now involved, with officers helping substance users get treatment rather than arresting them.

After launching his so-called Angel Program in Gloucester last year, Campanello started the national PAARI effort with John Rosenthal, a Massachusetts real estate developer and president of Meredith Management.

"When it was announced weeks ago about the investigation into Chief Campanello, he stepped down from any involvement whatsoever with PAARI," Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal says there have never been allegations of impropriety involving PAARI. And, he says, despite the controversy and the chief's firing, PAARI continues to grow and the work Campanello started will continue.

"We are moving forward. I'm sad for what's happened for the chief and the community of Gloucester, but it has nothing to do with PAARI and we just have to move on," he said.

Last month, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken placed Campanello on paid leave saying the city was investigating the chief and the department. She didn't provide further details until Monday, when she fired him.

"During the Labor Day weekend, my office received communications from a woman who made disturbing allegations regarding Chief Campanello's behavior during their relationship,"  Romeo Theken said. "She expressed concerns for her safety."

But Romeo Theken says it was the chief's subsequent actions that prompted his dismissal. She says the chief told investigators that his city-provided cellphone went missing from his office — but was later mailed anonymously to his lawyer. The mayor asked the district attorney to look into a possible theft.

"On Friday, Sept. 30, the district attorney informed the city that a review of surveillance videos determined that Chief Campanello had himself mailed the envelope from a post office in Everett to his own lawyer's office," she said. "From the findings, it's clear that Chief Campanello's statements suggesting a theft from inside the police station were false."

Deleted from Campanello's phone, city officials say, were hundreds of texts in one day to a woman alleging concerns about her safety. There are now three separate investigations into the Gloucester Police Department and a review of possible criminal charges by the Essex County district attorney, who has been a critic of police promising not to arrest known substance users. A spokeswoman for the DA would only say a team of attorneys and state police is reviewing several things that Gloucester officials have brought to their attention.

'This Is Bigger Than One Man'

It's a much different type of attention than Campanello has been used to in the past year. In April, Campanello was on a White House panel telling other law enforcement officials to always consider the residents of their communities first.

"And if you're a police leader that's your only role — that's the only people you work for is your community. So listen to what they're telling you that they don't want their addicted person further stigmatized by an arrest. They have enough problems. Let's try to help," Campanello said to applause during that panel.

Over the past year, Gloucester police have helped some 500 people get into treatment. The very first person to go to the Angel Program seeking help was 31-year-old Steve Lesnikoski. He says the PAARI program resonated with so many people so quickly that he's confident it will continue to grow.

"I'm not qualified to speak on anything he's done," Lesnikoski said. "I think the mission will still go forward, and all of this is bigger than one man. At the end of the day, there's been some great work done."

Lesnikoski is now attending college and working as a crisis counselor.

Campanello will no longer officially be Gloucester's chief on Nov. 2. Last month, Campanello's wife of 17 years filed for divorce citing an irretrievable breakdown in their marriage.

This segment aired on October 5, 2016.


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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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