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Police chief hailed as a pioneer in opiate fight now on leave

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, pictured in 2015.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello, who was recently honored at the White House for his efforts to combat opiate addiction, was placed on paid leave Tuesday amid an internal investigation.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken revealed the action in a brief statement. She did not indicate why Campanello was placed on leave. “We will have no further comment at this time,’’ the statement said.

Attempts to reach the chief for comment were unsuccessful. The police department declined to comment.

In April, the White House honored Campanello as a “Champion of Change’’ for reaching out to people struggling with drug addiction instead of shuttling them into the criminal justice system.


In 2015, he launched the Angel Initiative, which allows addicts to walk into the police station with drugs or needles without fear of facing criminal charges.

Instead, they are assigned an “angel” to steer them into drug treatment programs.

Campanello then joined with businessman John Rosenthal to launch the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which has helped launch similar programs in nearly 100 police departments in 22 states.

He has promoted the concept of “‘Alternative Policing,’ which combines the best ideas from traditional policing and community policing into a collaborative effort to reduce crime and increase the quality of life for all Gloucester residents,” according to his biography published on the department’s website.

Campanello, who served as a police officer and detective in Saugus for 23 years, has led the Gloucester department since 2012, when he was appointed by then-Mayor Carolyn Kirk.

Kirk resigned from office in January, 2015 to join the Baker administration as the state’s deputy secretary of Housing and Economic Development. Theken, a longtime city councilor, was chosen by the City Council to fill Kirk’s unexpired term. She was elected to her first full two-year term in November of 2015.

John R. Ellement and Kathy McCabe of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.