Ron Campurciani followed his gut – and his heart – to Mooresville.
The interim police chief from Massachusetts took over the town’s embattled police department about a month ago. He was brought in after Chief Damon Williams was placed on leave pending the results of an ongoing investigation into the Mooresville Police Department working environment.
Campurciani, a 34-year veteran of law enforcement, said he knew nothing about Mooresville when he answered an advertisement for the interim position in “a town in North Carolina.”
Once he knew it was Mooresville that was courting him, he started researching a little. He found articles about the MPD investigation and, simultaneously, the May 4 shooting death of Mooresville K9 Officer Jordan Sheldon.
As the town decided who would be the next interim chief, Campurciani dug even more into the goings-on in Mooresville. But instead of being deterred, he became more resolved: “I was reading more and more information about Officer Sheldon being killed. It solidified to me that if the town picked me, I’d come here. I wasn’t even here, and it was pretty clear to me that the officers here hadn’t had time to grieve.”
And, in fact, one of Campurciani’s first orders of business was organizing an event for MPD employees and their families. It’s scheduled for this week. “The pain is still there. It’s still real. It’s still raw. I can see it on their faces,” he said. “We’re going to meet as a family, because together, we can try to get through everything.
“Policing is so dynamic. Nothing stops us. We keep going,” Campurciani added. “I can meet with the cops anytime, but the families don’t have that outlet. They’re sometimes the forgotten people in these things.
“Hopefully the healing starts now,” he said.
Campurciani is “a cop’s cop,” said Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins.
Added Commissioner Eddie Dingler: “I’ve gotten thumbs-up and ‘thank yous’ from everyone I’ve heard from about this chief.”
Atkins agreed, saying the interim chief has been “well-received” by the town and the police department. “He’s compassionate and truly cares about the safety and well-being of his officers,” he said. “We are fortunate to have someone of exceptional caliber serving as our acting chief. With his experience and knowledge he brings, the department will excel under his leadership.”
But Campurciani isn’t all heart. He has a backbone, too, and he isn’t shying away from getting down to business in Mooresville. After all, he was brought in “to enact immediate change” at MPD. Campurciani is already being described by many in the department as direct and decisive, a problem solver and “straight shooter.”
Campurciani embraces it. “I think that brings a lot to the table,” he said. “You don’t have to figure out where I’m coming from or if I have any angles. I like to let people know where I stand. When people are left to make assumptions about what might be happening, I don’t think that’s good for anybody.”
Despite being brought into Mooresville from Massachusetts, Campurciani said he does not typically support looking outside to fill police chief positions. “I know that probably seems funny since I’m from outside, but I’ve never been a fan,” he said. “I have two exceptions: systemic corruption in a police department or the command staff of a police department being rendered ineffective for whatever reason.”
But overall, he said, hiring from the outside sends a bad message. “It sends the message that nobody in the police department is good enough to be chief, and that’s certainly not the case (in Mooresville),” he said. “That’s when you start seeing morale problems and good people moving out of the department.”
He said he almost immediately noticed a “clear disconnect” between the majority of MPD officers and the command staff. “I don’t know how it happened or whose fault it is,” he said. “All I need to know is there clearly is one.
“Over 90 percent of this department is clamoring and begging for change,” he said. “That’s unusual, and it says something. These officers just want to do their jobs and be supported by their command staff. That’s not an unreasonable request.”
He said his job would have been a lot harder if the officers were resistant to change. “Everything would have been a fight and a struggle and nobody would trust anybody,” he said. “But that’s just not the case here. It’s the total opposite. It makes it much easier to make those changes.”