By Marjorie Nesin
---- — His first year of work included responses to three drownings, two fatal fires, a seven-hour standoff with an armed man, and the aftermaths of both a hurricane and a blizzard.
And police Chief Leonard Campanello topped off his first 12 months on the job by jamming at the season’s final Block Party a couple weeks back.
But the mayor recognized him Monday by citing a number of other positive steps at the helm of Gloucester’s Police Department.
Congratulating Campanello on his first year of service — which he completed Tuesday — Kirk categorized Campanello’s work as “outstanding.”
“Your outgoing demeanor, coupled with your high level of competence and professionalism, has allowed you to enjoy the support of the community and the respect of the men and women under your command,” Kirk wrote in a letter to the chief.
Campanello, who left the Saugus Police Department to take Gloucester’s command post, has brought a number of first-year changes to city law enforcement, focusing on community policing ideals while implementing programs like the popular Citizens Police Academy, planting a school resource officer at the Gloucester High School, and working with senior citizens through collaboration with the Gloucester Housing Authority and Senior Care.
“These programs promote positive interactions amidst police officers and between officers and the public,” Kirk wrote, “thereby creating a healthier working environment, teamwork approaches to problem solving and a renewed sense of confidence from the public.”
Though the department had taken on a greater community policing focus under three-year interim Chief Mike Lane, Campanello, the first chief hired from outside the city and its Police Department, has zeroed in on the philosophy and put it into action.
“Before I got here, police officers knew citizens’ first names and citizens knew police officers’ first names,” Campanello said Tuesday. “All it (needed) was reinforcing that idea with things like the Citizens Police Academy and the neighborhood watch, so we’re interacting in positive ways.”
Under Campanello, the department also settled new police union contracts that now run through 2016, promoted six officers and hired three new ones. The department also dealt with some sour spots brought to the surface in a 2009 departmental audit in a report from Municipal Resources Inc.
That report had polled a number of officers and found that many felt some higher-ranking department members carried a sense of entitlement.
“There is no longer a sense of entitlement within the ranks of the department,” Kirk said in praising Campanello’s in-house changes. “Leadership has replaced management, and inspiration has replaced fear as the standard to get things done.”
Despite initial issues, supervisors have been “receptive” to training that focused on leading by doing and advising, along with positive reinforcement provided to those in lower ranks.
“Somehow, the command structure was above doing tasks that weren’t assigned to them, or simply maybe because they had bars and stripes on their shoulders, they managed more than they led,” Campanello said.
Campanello said he, too, is proud of that change but also acknowledged that his officers and the community were accepting of him entering the department from outside of the city to take the chief position.
“The transition to a chief from outside the department, the reception of the majority of the staff, was very satisfying,” Campanello said. “They were very welcoming, very open, and it made the transitioning much easier.”
He also touted a new $350,000 records management system that in December will change the way police record calls, write police reports and completely update the system for searching through past incident reports to help officers best respond to the approximately 26,000 calls for service they receive each year.
Campanello emphasizes in his management philosophy that the higher an officer ranks, the more people he serves within the department.
As he recalled his first year at Gloucester’s policing helm, he took time to thank all of those whom he works for.
“My biggest thing in looking back over this year is how thankful and appreciative that I am to the mayor, to the officers who I work for, to the citizens of Gloucester; really, everyone I’ve encountered has been positive and supportive and forthcoming with ideas and issues,” Campanello said.
“I’m humbled by the support,” he said, “and I look forward to continuing to serve.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.