Gloucester, MA -- Leonard Campanello is not your average police officer, which makes him even more of an atypical police chief. While police departments across the United States double down on the war on drugs with more military gear and violence, Campanello is doing it right.
While cops continue busting down doors of suspected drug users, and killing their dogs, or killing them, Campanello is reaching out his hand. The Gloucester Police Department serves the small town of 30,000 people, and when they experienced their fourth heroin death in three months, Campanello realized that police violence was not the way to deal with the problem.
“The war on drugs is over,” Campanello said in an interview. “And we lost. There is no way we can arrest our way out of this. We’ve been trying that for 50 years. We’ve been fighting it for 50 years, and the only thing that has happened is heroin has become cheaper and more people are dying.”
The fact that a police chief is unafraid to speak such truth to power is astonishing. Despite the war on drugs being an abject failure and an immoral stain on humanity, police departments across the country continue to support it. Those who speak out against it are shunned by the same Police Unions who lobby congress for more strict drug laws.
However, Campanello says, no more.
In March of this year, after receiving news of yet another heroin overdose, Campanello took to Facebook and began a revolution.
"If you are a user of opiates or heroin, let us help you. We know you do not want this addiction. We have resources here in the City that can and will make a difference in your life. Do not become a statistic," wrote Campanello.
Campanello then got in touch with the local mayor and began the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (P.A.A.R.I.) which would help drug addicts instead of lock them in cages.
After the kinks were ironed out, Campanello took to Facebook again in May.
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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. Instead we will walk them through the system toward detox and recovery. We will assign them an "angel" who will be their guide through the process. Not in hours or days, but on the spot.
The post went uber viral, and was shared over 30,000 times.
Since then, the Gloucester department has helped 109 addicts; 1 in 6 who have driven from out of state for the program.
The idea of treating an addict with compassion instead of violence is a revolutionary notion in this country. However, in other countries, such as Portugal, its effects have been realized for more than a decade. In 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalized all drugs.
14 years later, drug use, crime, and overdoses have drastically declined in Portugal exposing the horrid reality of prohibition.
News of Campanello's initiative is spreading, and three other cities in Massachusetts will soon launch similar programs, as well as two cities in Illinois. While Campanello's initiative not perfect, it is radically different than anything we've seen thus far. It will undoubtedly lead to decriminalization being pushed into the mainstream.
It is, however, important to point out the complete hypocrisy in the state's view of heroin. According to the Centers for Disease Control, around 6,000 people die every year from heroin overdoses. Many experts in the field agree that most of these overdoses are caused by a problem of impurities, due to the nature of the black market.
That being said, legal synthetic heroin, aka opioid-based pain killers, kill three times that number. Instead of going after the Sackler family, who is responsible for killing more people every year than all illicit drugs combined, the FDA just approved the use of their deadly drug, OxyContin, in children.
Campanello's initiative is huge, it is revolutionary, and will undoubtedly lead to progress. But until Americans wake up to the fact that their government is owned and operated by criminals far worse than any heroin dealer, this change will be gruelingly slow.
Share this article with your friends and family to show them the power one good cop can have. Maybe you will open their eyes to the horrid reality that is the war on drugs.