Massachusetts Chief’s Tack in Drug War: Steer Addicts to Rehab, Not Jail


CANTON, Ohio — Leonard Campanello, the police chief of Gloucester, Mass., took the microphone here in mid-December and opened with his usual warm-up line: I’m from Gloucester, he said in his heavy Boston accent. “That’s spelled ‘G-l-o-s-t-a-h.’”

A casually profane man with a philosophical bent, Chief Campanello, 48, first drew national attention last spring when he wrote on Facebook that the old war on drugs was lost and over. Convinced that addiction is a disease, not a crime or moral failing, he became the unusual law enforcement officer offering heroin users an alternative to prison.

“Any addict who walks into the police station with the remainder of their drug equipment (needles, etc.) or drugs and asks for help will NOT be charged,” he wrote. “Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery” and send them for treatment “on the spot.”

That post from a small-town police chief was shared more than 30,000 times and viewed by 2.4 million people. By June, his Police Department had put his promise into action in what became known as Gloucester’s Angel program.

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