To JA, I’m not good at goodbyes

I still remember the first time I met the out-going Norwich Police Chief Joe Angelino on a professional level. We exchanged a solid handshake, he looked me straight in the eye, and I sat down in his office. I knew that day that he would be one of my most important professional contacts, but what I didn’t know yet was that we would develop a relationship that was genuinely human to human. Our exchanges throughout my year and a half spent covering his department’s media related stories will stick with me forever.

When I first learned of Angelino’s retirement, I was shocked. For most of my life that I remember, it was “Chief Angelino,” being too young to remember his predecessor.

I wrote the law enforcement story in last year’s edition of Progress Chenango. That was one of my first face-to-face meetings with Angelino. He gave me a copy of the previous year’s annual report, and a Norwich Police Department coffee mug. It was black and gold.

Three weeks later, in the office, my coffee got cold. I popped it in the microwave to warm it up so I could finish it and get the paper sent to the printer by deadline. Just a few seconds into the microwave turning on … bam. Sparks.

I failed to realize the gold on the mug was made of foil, and therefore the mug was not microwavable. I mentioned it to Angelino, he laughed, and I didn’t get a new one. I will keep my partially burned mug as a life lesson. … Just because it’s not silver, doesn’t mean it’s not foil.

Throughout our relationship there were numerous hilarious moments, moments where I took accountability to mistakes made, and some somber moments.

Angelino offered me a tour of the station and a brief history. The history of the building itself is rather interesting, as is the decor throughout the station. The basement is full of character, evidence and confiscated items.

There is an area dedicated to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack. Various folks from the area immediately went down to NYC to assist, and Angelino was one such person.

Helper. That’s a word that seems so simple but is so important. That’s how I see Angelino. He went to help on 9/11, he served multiple tours of duty overseas as a Marine and retired at the highest enlisted rank, Sergeant Major. He dedicated his law enforcement career to helping the community. He ran a department who was trained to protect and serve the public.

Aside from helping within the scope of his career, Angelino has helped me in a multitude of ways.

My cat went missing in August when my husband and I bought a house and moved. Jack, my cat, snuck out and I was distraught for 28 days. There wasn’t a day during those 28 days that Jack was not brought up if I ran into Angelino. If we saw each other in the morning before I’d get to the office, he’d ask if he came home yet. He offered tips on how we could get him home. There was a certain point when he said to me, looking me square in the eye, “It might be time to put some food out there for him.”

I knew he was right, but got in my car and cried.

There was also the day Angelino said prayers to St. Francis of Assisi might be of benefit.

I also will never forget the response to me when I told him that Jack was home.

Angelino – along with many others – helped me through what was one of the toughest four weeks I’ve had in recent memory.

We also shared lighthearted times. I wrote a headline for a story about a NPD drug bust, and took a photo and emailed it to him. It was a horrible headline, but hilarious. Angelino’s response was even funnier, and I’ll never delete that email.

While at first glance he may seem like an intimidating head of a group of officers, Angelino is quick-witted and a genuinely nice man. Don’t get me wrong, though, he has been the chief for nearly two decades for a reason. He’s stern and will let you know it.

In addition to the history of the station, the history of who occupied his office prior to him, Angelino shared other events with me, one of which I find to be absolutely compelling, and one that, as a life-long Norwich resident I had not heard of.

In April of 1983 a married couple entered the Chenango County Office Building and took 18 employees hostage.

The incident was covered by The Evening Sun, New York Times, The Milwaukee Journal, and others.

Lawrence and Christine Gladstone entered the County Office Building with shotguns, a knife beneath their clothing, and a bag that they said was filled with explosives. It was later found there were no explosives.

Chenango County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the incident in addition to the Norwich Police. Angelino was an officer at the time and was a responding officer.

The couple had 45 dogs confiscated from their Preston home, with the ASPCA alleging animal mistreatment.

Per the article in The Milwaukee Journal from April 26, 1983, the Gladstones released two of the hostages with an order to deliver their list of demands which included speaking to President Ronald Reagan over the telephone, meet with Governor at the time Mario Cuomo, newscaster Dan Rather, sportscaster Frank Gifford and the host of the Today Show, Bryant Gumbel.

According to the story, the Gladstone’s note to sheriff’s deputies said, “This action is taken as a desperate grasping for a hope of the American Dream.”

The Sheriff’s Office and the Norwich Police worked together and the hostage situation ended without any injuries.

The New York Times article cited that the couple’s major demand was to have their pet dogs returned to them. One husky was exchanged for four female hostages. Another dog was later exchanged for five male hostages.

The photo attached to this column is an Evening Sun photo taken during the situation.

Lawrence Gladstone was convicted of kidnapping in the second degree, served nine years in Attica, and was released on parole in 1993.

Christine Gladstone was convicted of kidnapping in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree, and criminal use of firearms in the first degree and was released from prison in 1988 on parole.

That’s just a short summary of one incident in which Angelino responded. Throughout his 36-year career in law enforcement, there are countless others.

We’ve sat in his office and he’s pulled up certain big arrests and he shared stories regarding each.

Angelino has seen a lot. I can’t even imagine.

And through it all, every time I see him in the morning offers a pleasant greeting and sometimes a joke here or there.

Whenever I had a question about something, he has always been swift to email me a link, or explain something from the past in detail, call my cell phone, or invite me to the station.

He congratulated me on my new home, my marriage, and said he went to high school with my mother and said she is a nice lady.

Angelino knows Norwich. He knows the people. He cares about the city and cares about the people. One day, while I was driving, I watched him stop and help an elderly woman at the Post Office.

When I went to North Carolina and was off work for two days, he told me to enjoy my vacation and time away. When I learned it was his birthday, I sent him a message to tell him happy birthday.

What began as what I thought would be a straight up professional relationship expanded to me getting to know a man who has been through a lot, accomplished a great deal, and taught me an immense amount of information in almost any facet of life.

While I try not to get sappy, I have to admit it has been extremely hard for me to write this piece as my “goodbye” to the chief. His final day is this Wednesday.

JA: I suppose the only words I have to you are to have some fun, perhaps go on a vacation with your wife, enjoy your cats, stay in touch, and thank you for not giving me a new mug after I caught mine on fire. The motto you told me is fantastic, and I think of it often. I appreciate you for treating me as a professional and a human. I’ve saved all your funny jokes and messages and read them every now and then. It’s not in me to delete them.

Those who have worked for you to serve and protect the City of Norwich have sent me some words to leave you with:

“Chief Angelino has shown leadership and dedication to the department for over 30 years. He has become a staple of the department and he will be missed.” – Detective Michael Purdy.

“Having worked for over three decades in law enforcement is quite an accomplishment. Chief Angelino has left a mark on the police department that won’t soon be forgotten.” – Sergeant Reuben Roach, Police Benevolent Association President.

“It’s been a great opportunity to work for Chief Angelino. He is one of the few chiefs that I know of that will go out on patrol and respond to a call by your side or back you up on a traffic stop. He dedicated a lot of time and heart to our community. I wish him the best in his future endeavors.” – NPD K9 Officer Thomas Miller.

“His life is this department and he would do anything he could for any of his officers. When he enters a room it becomes tense — in a good way — because he brings out the best in you.” – NPD Officer.

“It’s been a pleasure to work for Chief Angelino my entire career. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn so much from him. He is an individual who truly put the police department and the community above all else.” – Deputy Chief Rodney Marsh.

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