GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Leonard J. Papania will retire from his position as the Police Chief of the Gulfport Police Department on August 30, 2020. He has been with the department for over 25 years and has served as police chief since May 2013.
Papania began his career with the Gulfport Police Department in April 1991 when he became a reserve police officer. In November 1994, he gained a full-time position as a police officer. During his career he has served in the Patrol Division, the Narcotics Division, and the Professional Standards Unit.
He served as a Task Force Agent with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and as a Task Force Officer with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He was appointed as Commander of Operations in February of 2006. And in July of 2009, he was appointed as Deputy Chief of Police.
“I have always believed that policing is a noble profession. It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Gulfport. I am proud to wear our badge,“ Papania said.
Gulfport is the second largest city in Mississippi. The department Papania leads protects a city with 71,750 residents and a daily population of more than 144,000 residents.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said he doesn’t want to see Papania go but is confident he’s prepared a legacy under him.
“He’s one of those guys that wanted to give us enough advance notice. He’s just a team player, and it was very considerate of him to do that. You don’t want to see a guy like that go, but he’s really done a good job with his legacy preparing for the next group of professionals to come forward,” he said.
Hewes said the city is in the early stages of determining how the hiring process will go to find Papania’s replacement.
Papania will continue his service to the Gulf Coast community after he retires. He has accepted a position as Director of Youth Services with the Open Doors Homeless Coalition in Gulfport.
“Over my years in policing, I have formed a strong bond with our community. It is truly a blessing to remain in service to it,” he said. “In a lot of ways my employer is changing, but my line of work is not. I will have the opportunity to give back to my community and continue to make it a better place. I’ve worked since 1991 in a field I love and lightning is striking again, and I’m getting to continue.”
Papania is the son of Bernard and the late Estelle Papania of Gulfport. He is married to Angela Papania. He has three sons, James (Emily) Papania, Nicholas Papania, and Bennett Papania, one daughter, Rosemary Papania, and two granddaughters..
The Gulfport Police Department has 167 sworn officers and 57 civilian staff. The only other police department in Mississippi with a larger staff is the Jackson Police Department.