Punching the Clock: Muzzle-punched

By Brian Golden

Sun Staff Writer


Five days gone by, and I’m still nursing a set of bruised ribs and a strange, purplish-yellow bruise on my right arm, one that looks remarkably like the bite of some ferocious animal. One might think I’ve been hanging out in the wrong clubs, but sadly, that’s simply not the case. I was merely Punching the Clock with my friends in blue at the Norwich City Police Department.

Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we?

I’ve been planning a ride-along with our local police department for well over a year now, ever since taking over the police beat here at The Evening Sun, something I never seemed to get around to. Add to that a certain K-9 officer’s repeated attempts to persuade me to, how shall I say, experience some of the more “fun” aspects of his job, and maybe you’ll understand my hesitation.

“Hey, Brian, when are you going to let my dog bite you?”

“Uhh ... yeah, let me think about that.”

“Golden, what do you think about getting pepper sprayed? How about the taser? Do you want to get tasered?”

“Sure, guys, just give me a couple of days. It’s been pretty busy over at the newsroom and I really don’t have time right now.”

Our city police, however, are not only dedicated, but persistant. And it was only a matter of time before they caught up with me, thanks to our Punching the Clock series, of course.

Which is why last Thursday found this intrepid reporter slipping into a bullet-proof vest for the first time and riding along with Norwich City Police Sgt. Patrick Blenis for a few hours, cruising the city streets; discussing all manner of procedures, rumors and recent happenings; and getting a brief, behind the scenes look at the life of a Norwich police officer.

Interestingly enough, the majority of the evening was spent retrieving an individual picked up on an active bench warrant, transporting that individual to City Court for a late-night appearance and traveling to the Chenango County Correctional Facility, where he was remanded pending his next court appearance. Interesting, I say, because this is the kind of thing I write about day-in and day-out for the Police Blotter. You know what I mean, if you’re a fan of our daily report, a “matter of public record” which “includes persons who have been arrested and booked.”

Thursday night’s arrest would’ve looked something like this in Friday’s paper.

John Doe, 25, Norwich, was arrested on an active bench warrant issued by Norwich City Court for failure to appear on a charge of (insert favorite misdemeanor crime here). He was arraigned in Norwich City Court, remanded to the Chenango County Correctional Facility on $500 cash bail and will appear in court at a later date.

Hard to believe that the hour and a half of work that goes into an arrest, arraignment and remand boils down to that brief report, but there you have it. Needless to say, it was an extremely educational and informative opportunity and a big thanks goes out to Sgt. Blenis for letting me tag along.

Which, of course, brings me to the second portion of my brilliant little plan for Punching the Clock, spending Friday morning with Officer Brandon Clarke and his partner Weeks (you know, the 100-plus-pound German Shepherd), my esteemed editor Jeff Genung, Evening Sun reporters Kevin Doonan and Shawn Magrath, and intern photo-journalist Darien Grippaldi (who captured what follows for posterity’s sake ... much to my embarrassment).

Making our way down to Kurt Beyer Park – where I was assured I could be mauled at will by the good-natured Weeks – the crew and I all watched as Officer Clarke put Weeks through the motions: flawlessly locating several catnip-like bags of marijuana (one placed in Kevin’s sock); my driver’s license (which had been thrown randomly into the middle of the field); and – in the end – beating this helpless reporter to a pulp.

And yes, I willingly volunteered for what you are about to read.

First up, I had agreed to be “muzzle-punched,” an actual term I was informed, and a memorable – if somewhat painful – experience. Weeks, thankfully, was strapped into a cage-like muzzle, which would keep him from actually biting my person, held at bay while I prepared to flee Officer Clarke and – once I’d shouted some not so nice things to stir things up – released as I loped away.

Note to readers: you do not want to be muzzle-punched ... trust me.

Running toward the center of the field, it took Weeks only seconds to catch me, and catch me he did. Taking out my right leg with his muzzled mouth, I followed Clarke’s instructions, curling into the fetal position as Weeks’ jaws snapped in my ears and about my face, his nails leaving several nice-looking welts on my arms and neck. I wore very little protection for the muzzle-punch – just a bullet proof vest, mind you – and still came away with the aforementioned bruised ribs, which (thanks to the adrenaline) I didn’t even feel at the time.

That was nothing, however.

What followed featured this intrepid reporter donning the “bite suit,” which looks remarkably like the little brother’s snowsuit in “A Christmas Story,” weighs in at about 40 pounds, and would “protect” me from Weeks’ rather powerful bite. Trust me, I should know, because moments after I’d been warned not to run away (a warning I ignored, of course), Weeks had me once again on the ground, latched onto my right arm and dragging me about like a rag doll. I can remember thinking several things at once right about then ...

Is this supposed to hurt?

Nah, don’t be a baby, Golden, you’ll be fine.

Why in God’s name did I agree to this?

Don’t worry, it’s almost over.

OK, Clarke, call off your dog, I’ve had about enough.

Take it like a man, Golden, take it like a man.

Jeff and the crew, of course, found the whole thing hilarious. Me? Well, here’s a little advice for any would-be criminals out there. If Officer Clarke says stop, it would be in your best interest to do so. Because when you see Weeks come streaking after you at full speed ... well, I can guarantee you you’re not going far.

Again, a big thanks to all those who made my experience Punching the Clock with the Norwich City Police such a ... memorable ... experience, namely Sgt. Blenis, Officer Clarke, Weeks and – of course – Police Chief Joseph Angelino, who’s always willing to sit down and discuss a potential story or explain an incident or other situation. I have a great working relationship with our city’s police department, and it’s absolutely amazing the amount of work that goes into its officers’ training (which never really ends) and day to day operations. We are truly blessed to have such a dedicated, professional and hard working police force here in Norwich ... just don’t make the dog angry ... or Officer Clarke, for that matter.

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