Making Us Proud: Gloucester Shows The Country How Police Should Operate

It’s no big secret that our beautiful seaside city has a wee bit of a heroin problem.

On my street alone, there have been two fatal overdoses in the last calendar year. A few years back when I rented a retail business space, I went to replace a drop-ceiling tile, and a syringe fell out and skittered across the floor. It’s depressing – occasionally we use gallows humor here at your The Clam in order to not scream about it all or overload ourselves with how deep, and tragic, and just so fucking unrelenting it is. Dealing with junkie neighbors and in some cases family, and the problems that addiction can bring can be draining. Dealing with junkie neighbors at home AND at work is even more draining. Of course, that’s absolutely nothing compared to what families have to go through.

Just a normal beach day. (Photo courtesy of Because Gloucester/Shellee Viator)

Just a normal beach day. (Photo courtesy of Because Gloucester/Shellee Viator)

Our local police force has dealt with opiate dependency, at least from everything I’ve seen and heard firsthand, with an amazing amount of patience, grace, and understanding. I cannot imagine that Gloucester is an easy city to police, especially when it comes to the problems and crimes that addiction leads to. Our country has seen an unacceptable amount of horrific news stories involving police forces acting in unconscionable ways – but here in Gloucester, we’ve been absolutely blessed with a group of caring individuals who still treat people like people. If every police department across the country was the Gloucester Police, we’d be a much better country. I won’t say they’re perfect, but they’re pretty freakin’ awesome overall.

And so, after Saturday’s city-wide opiate summit, the Gloucester Police Facebook page posted the following statement from chief Campanello:

On Saturday, May 2, the City held a forum regarding the opiate crisis, and on how Gloucester has many resources for help. We are poised to make revolutionary changes in the way we treat this DISEASE. Your Police Department vowed to take the following measures to assist, beginning June 1, 2015:

– 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. Addison Gilbert and Lahey Clinic have committed to helping fast track people that walk into the police department so that they can be assessed quickly and the proper care can be administered quickly.

– Nasal Narcan has just been made available at local pharmacies without a prescription. The police department has entered into an agreement with Conleys and is working on one with CVS that will allow anyone access to the drug at little to no cost regardless of their insurance. The police department will pay the cost of nasal narcan for those without insurance. We will pay for it with money seized from drug dealers during investigations. We will save lives with the money from the pockets of those who would take them. We recognize that nasal narcan is not the answer, but it is saving lives and no one in this City will be denied a life saving drug for this disease just because of a lack of insurance. Conleys has also agreed to assist with insurance requests from those who do not have any.

– I will personally travel to Washington DC, with the support of Mayor Theken, the City Council, Sen. Bruce Tarr, and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, on May 12 and 13. There I will meet with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Congressman Seth Moulton. I will bring what Gloucester is accomplishing and challenge them to change, at the federal level, how we receive aid, support and assistance. I will bring the idea of how far Gloucester is willing to go to fight this disease and will ask them to hold federal agencies, insurance companies and big business accountable for building a support system that can eradicate opiate addiction and provide long term, sustainable support to reduce recidivism.

I am asking for your help. Like this post, send it to everyone you can think of and ask them to do the same. Speak your comments. Create strength in numbers. I will bring it with me to show how many voters are concerned about this issue. Lives are literally at stake. I have been on both sides of this issue, having spent 7 years as a plainclothes narcotics detective. I have arrested or charged many addicts and dealers. I’ve never arrested a tobacco addict, nor have I ever seen one turned down for help when they develop lung cancer, whether or not they have insurance. The reasons for the difference in care between a tobacco addict and an opiate addict is stigma and money. Petty reasons to lose a life.

Please help us make permanent change here in Gloucester.

Thank you,
Chief Campanello

Woah. This is a huge step forward for Gloucester – towards compassionate care for people society tend to give up on, or judge harshly having not been in their shoes. Chief Campanello just came out and said “You have a disease, your life matters. It matters enough for us to drop everything and help you. It matters enough that we’re getting anyone Narcan so we can save more lives.”It’s the best outcome for everyone involved to handle things this way instead of turning a blind eye, or arresting people only for the crime of being caught up in a shitty addiction. I’m sure there will be at least one bag of literal human garbage who will write us a dipshit comment about “THOSE people/handouts/free rides”, but that’s why we screen comments. And this novel approach resonated pretty far – as of last count, it had something like 15.5k shares (for a page with 2k likes). People from all around the country have left thousands of comments wishing their local police department would do the same. Maybe they will. Maybe this is the start.

Everyone involved in Saturday’s meeting should be proud of working on this collaboration. We’re proud of you all for putting Gloucester in the spotlight for being Gloucester – the city that bands together and helps each other out like no other place I’ve ever been.