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Police chief prominent in heroin addiction debate fired

October 03, 2016 - 5:48 PM

BOSTON - A police chief who was honoured by the White House for his pioneering approach to heroin addiction was fired on Monday after the mayor accused him of misleading investigators looking into allegations of improper behaviour with two women.

Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken said she lost confidence in police Chief Leonard Campanello after he destroyed cellphone evidence and took other steps to deceive investigators looking into the complaints. She said she made the decision to begin the termination process "with a heavy heart" but Campanello's actions during the investigation were "entirely unethical and unacceptable."

Campanello gained national recognition for launching the Angel program, which connected heroin addicts with drug treatment without arresting them. The program has helped hundreds of drug addicts get into treatment and has been replicated in dozens of police departments across the country since its June 2015 launch. Campanello was honoured in Washington, D.C., as a Champion of Change in April.

Theken said Campanello erased the memory on his city-issued phone and suggested someone else in the police department had taken the phone without his permission and tampered with it. The city's special legal counsel, Lenny Kesten, said investigators later determined Campanello's statements were false and recovered more than 600 text messages between the chief and one of the women.

Theken and Kesten declined to describe the nature of the two women's allegations other than to say they were "disturbing" and the women may have feared for their safety.

"His personal life is his personal life," Kesten said Monday.

The Boston Herald reported Campanello's wife filed for divorce late last week. The couple has been separated for about two years.

Campanello's lawyer Terrence Kennedy declined to address the allegations. In an emailed statement, he called the city investigation a "witch hunt" and maintained the firing was unjustified.

"The chief is proud of the work he has done for the city of Gloucester as well as with the Angel program," Kennedy said. "He intends to continue to advocate even stronger for those suffering from addiction."

Campanello tweeted a message to the residents of Gloucester, an hour's drive northeast of Boston, after the mayor's announcement: "Thank you citizens of Gloucester for your belief in me. See you 'further on up the road'. I loved working for you. #headheldhigh."

Campanello's termination isn't immediate. Under Campanello's contract, he is entitled to a hearing to challenge his termination, and Kennedy said Campanello intends to hold the city to its contractual obligations.

Theken placed Campanello on administrative leave last month for undisclosed reasons and launched separate probes of the police department, Campanello and another officer also placed on leave.

The mayor stressed the Angel program will continue without Campanello. About 10 drug addicts have gone to the police seeking treatment since the chief left, she said.

"It's succeeding. It's going forward," she said. "The city is committed to helping people who want to be helped."

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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