MOORESVILLE – Ask interim police chief Ron Campurciani for his early impressions of Mooresville, and he answers without hesitation.
“It’s too hot,” says the 32-year veteran of a Massachusetts police department who retired in 2018 before serving as executive director of the Western Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
As Campurciani sits at his desk at the Mooresville Police Department headquarters, framed photos of the force featuring suspended chief Damon Williams lean against a wall in the corner of the office. They are a reminder that Campurciani stepped into more than just a sweltering North Carolina summer when he took charge of the Mooresville department this summer.
He also is faced with a cauldron of simmering uncertainty within a police department being investigated by an outside agency over allegations of a hostile work environment for officers and employees.
For his part, Campurciani said he’s happy to steer clear of the probe that led to the suspension of Williams and one of his captains.
“The beauty of it is it’s being handled by an outside agency (the U.S. ISS Agency of Huntersville),” he said. “I don't have to deal with any of that and I don't want to get into any of that.”
Lapping off layers
What Campurciani has dealt with quickly is the structure of the department’s command staff, which he says had too many layers for an agency its size.
“Things would work their way up the chain but never get to the top,” he said. “I’d ask people about things and they’d say, ‘Yeah, we talked about that, but nothing ever happened.’ That’s because it started going up the chain and then got lost somewhere. It’s like going into a black hole.”
Under the old structure, a deputy chief and two majors reported to the chief. Seven employees now report to Campurciani.
“A flatter organization is just more effective,” he said. “It’s more work for me and some other people, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
That’s because more officers gain experience making decisions, which prepares them to move up in the organization, he explained.
“Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get smarter when you’re promoted,” he noted. “If they’ve done some of these things already, they’re ready to move up.”
No more ‘back and forth’
Other than the weather, Campurciani says the lack of union bargaining power is the biggest difference between running a police department in North Carolina and leading a law enforcement agency in Massachusetts.
He noted that the Mooresville Police Department has body cameras and vehicle-mounted cameras. The department requested the cameras, the town agreed to pay for them and that was that.
In Massachusetts, the union representing officers would have to approve of the cameras before they could be used, Campurciani said, adding that the same procedure applies to virtually every decision affecting the force.
“They shut everything down and then you have the bargain,” he said. “It goes back and forth … and you bargain to an impasse and then you go to arbitration.”
A departmental change that could take months to implement in Mooresville could take years in a department whose members are represented by a union, he said.
Campurciani said one of his first observations of Mooresville was its support of the police department.
“It really is amazing,” said Campurciani, who arrived less than two months after Officer Jordan Sheldon was shot and killed during a traffic stop. “I can’t tell you how many people came up to me in the first couple weeks after I came here and said, ‘Thank you for coming. I’m so happy you’re here.’”
He also was immediately impressed with the police department’s staff.
“They’re just hard-working people,” he said.
Campurciani took over as chief June 17, and his contract runs through Dec. 17. When asked if he’d be interested in having the interim tag removed and staying in the job for the long term, he said it’s too soon to know.
“(Chief Williams) could end up coming back to work next week or next month,” he said.
He also noted that commissioners are in the process of hiring a new town manager, who would hire the next chief if that scenario unfolds.
“We’ll just see how things play out,” Campurciani said.