Members of the community gathered at the amphitheater at Liberty Park recently for Coffee with the Chief to enjoy coffee, breakfast, fellowship and an opportunity to ask Mooresville Police Chief Ron Campurciani questions and share concerns.
Dave Harding, who serves as the crime prevention and community outreach officer, organized the event. He told the crowd that Campurciani is a 37-year veteran of policing having retired as chief of police in Western Springfield, Massachusetts, and most recently as executive director of the Western Massachusetts Police Chief Association before coming to Mooresville just a little over two years ago.
After sharing the chief’s many accomplishments, Harding said that “it takes more than words on paper to be a chief, and Chief Campurciani shows us every day how to be a chief by his mere presence. He instills confidence and professionalism in us.”
Not spending lots of time on how he came to be in Mooresville and what all brought him here as he noted “all that has been well chronicled” but he did express how he has appreciated the welcome he has received while being here. Coming into the role of chief during a very difficult time of losing Officer Jordan Sheldon and with internal issues going on in the department, he said, the reception was really heartwarming. “So for them to welcome me in the way they did was pretty amazing,” he said.
Planned to happen a year ago, the Coffee with the Chief had to be postponed multiple times because of COVID, but Harding worked hard to make it happen, Campurciani said, and thanked him for all he does for the community.
As the event was taking place, the sounds of construction were going on at the nearby Mill One site, which the chief pointed out as he commented, “Mooresville is really growing.” Reminded of an area similar to this where he came from, he said they “realized too late how good things were and we tried to put things in place too late and crime and gangs came in.”
Not wanting that to happen here, he said they have a plan moving forward.
Viewing policing as a business and the community as the stakeholders, Campurciani said as stakeholders, “you want a return on your investment, and the return on your investment that we can give you is that you feel safe to come and walk around and be part of this and live in a community and we understand that.”
To this end, he shared that he learned early on not to be afraid to ask for things the department needs. One of those was the acquiring of a new body cam system. The state-of-the-art system, which cost the town $2 million was approved, and “they didn’t blink an eye because they knew we needed it,” he said. “We do need it if we are going to be as transparent as we want to be.”
The system is amazing, he continued and noted that it allows the chiefs to be able to get on their computers and watch live anything that might be happening at that moment.
Campurciani shared that they are “moving forward with a lot of things” with one of them being increasing a police presence in the downtown area, which is seeing lots of growth. This includes the putting in of a substation there and having officers be in the area at night on foot and mingle with everybody “because we know the dynamics change down here at night,” he said, “not necessarily bad, but it changes. So, we’re going to have officers down here on foot walking around the restaurants and the shops that are open so we don’t have any of that stuff that happens in other places happen here, because again, there’s 90 apartments going into this Liberty Park over here and again people aren’t going to move here if they think they’re not safe going out to their cars. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Traffic was the next issue Campurciani addressed. He said was a big deal when he first got here and still is. “A lot of it unfortunately, we don’t have control of. All of the state highways, Highway 150, anything else that is a state highway, the state tells us what we can do.”
However, he said that because people have been telling the police they want traffic enforcement, they began a four-man traffic unit last year and hope to increase it next year to four additional members of that unit “that do nothing but enforce traffic laws. They have no other assignment but just that,” he shared.
He continued by telling that the license plate readers called Flock cameras — they have 40 of them in Mooresville now — have helped. “I can’t tell you how many guns and drugs we have taken off the street. We’ve also gotten wanted people from others states. We’ve gotten runaways from other states that have been missing. The stuff that that has brought in from these cameras is unbelievable.”
Speaking of traffic, he said the Flock cameras “circle how many cars come through and, (last month) it circled through 5.4 million plates in Mooresville” meaning that is how many cars are coming through the area. Some he noted may be duplicates depending on where they cars are headed.
“We’ve been able to look at videos and try to track cars back and see where they’ve gone, so it’s really been a homerun for us,” he noted. “And I think it goes a long way to everybody’s safety here. So, that’s the direction we’re moving.”
Police department growth
An additional item of the Mooresville Police Department’s future is that as the town grows, so they have to as well. The department he noted currently has 96 sworn officers and 125 personnel altogether. He said they would be getting a couple officers this year as the result of a grant.
In addition to the two new officers, he made mention of the new police station that is being built at West Wilson Avenue and US 21. The new facility will be a two-story building and just about 50,000 square feet, thus doubling the space of what they have in their current building.
Not only will they have a larger facility, but plans are within seven to 10 years, to have 150 officers. “That’s the plan,” he said. “So we’re going to grow, and just so you know, one of the things that you see is our hiring practices have changed because the culture of Mooresville is changing. The dynamics of Mooresville are changing. We’re hiring more minorities and what you will also see is, a lot of female officers here. I’m a huge proponent of female law enforcement. I always have been. I think there are a lot of things that women just do better than the males do.”
Answering to the community
Campurciani then provided the community the chance to ask any questions they had on their minds.
Traffic was the concern of several as Ann Parker shared that she and husband Clyde live in the Magnolia Street area where people are out walking and running every day. “But we also have a real bad drag strip right in front of our house,” she said.
Parker said she had reached out to the streets department and was informed to call the police, which she had. “So you need to hear that there’s a problem there” to which Campurciani said he felt bad it had gotten to this point and he appreciated her bringing up this issue, and it was now known and would be addressed.
Camille Desimone also mentioned the back up of traffic on NC 150 as well as in the Overhead Bridge Road area, with people driving dangerously because they tired of sitting there trying to turn and accidents happening. He again noted that with NC 150 being a state road, they were unable to control that situation but would look into the other problems in the other area mentioned.
Addressing various concerns of victims with mental health issues was brought up by Marietta Nilsson to which Campurciani pointed out that police have been saying for many years that they shouldn’t be handling calls involving mentally ill patients.
“The police department has been saying that stuff for 20 years because we know we’re not the people that should be going there, but you know what,” he said, “when you call 911, someone’s going to answer the phone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and we become the catch-all for everybody because there’s nowhere else for them to turn.”
He also noted reaching out to others trained to deal with mental health issues and possibly partnering with them and having someone on staff that could accompany them on these calls.
Campurciani also addressed her other concern about shooting to wound, to which he said, “that that’s not how they are trained, that’s not how we’re ever going to be trained. When we don’t know someone’s mental health, if they take out a gun and they’re going to shoot us, all these officers here that you see, we have families. They are people’s husbands and fathers and sons and daughters and trust me, no one that I’ve ever known comes to work and goes, I hope today is the day that I get to shoot somebody. No cop in the world is saying that, and if they do say that, they’re not going to be around here very long.”
He said he has taught his daughters “when they choose the behavior, they also choose the consequences.” Likewise, he said, “it’s the same way out there. There’s a misnomer here that the police control what happens in situations. We don’t. We give them options of things to do and if they choose to do it, everybody, including them, goes home safe.”
He noted how there are bad cops out there but as he has said before, “nobody, and I mean nobody, hates a bad cop more than the good cops because they have to hear stuff all the time.”
The final comment from the community came from Tess Miller who told them that she and husband Brad regularly pray for the police to which the chief said they appreciated it.
Before the event concluded Commissioner Bobby Compton shared something that he said has always stuck with him when new police are sworn in during town board meetings. He said the chief always says, “I’ve never been in a community that loves police officers as much as this community does. He tells his officers to be sure and love them back. He says that every time.”