St. Paul’s East Side is about to lose one of its biggest cheerleaders Friday when Joe Neuberger, senior commander of St. Paul police’s Eastern District, retires after almost 35 years with the department.
Whether it was stopping for breakfast at the newly opened Cook St. Paul on Payne Avenue or tasting some root beer at Flat Earth Brewery located practically across the street from the station at the old Hamm’s brewery site, Neuberger promoted public engagement so that residents could see a department member as “more than a police officer.”
“We’ve certainly had our ups and downs, but I think since 2010 [when Neuberger became senior commander] to now we got a better connection with the community,” he said.
As the community has improved, new businesses have moved in.
“It’s sort of a revitalization,” Neuberger said. “People are more interested in the East Side again.”
One of the lessons he learned from his work with the roughly 100 sworn officers in his district is to take a holistic look at crime. “From a crime fighting perspective, we realized that we can’t arrest our way out of it. We’re trying to do bigger picture,” he said.
Neuberger said he is especially proud that the department didn’t shy away from trying different policing strategies, such as the Safe Summer Initiative, which links kids who are caught breaking curfew with volunteer services, and the new Community Response Team, which works to address lower-level crimes.
“Arrest when we need to arrest, divert when we need to divert, and outreach so that the community feels better,” he said.
Matt Toupal, a commander from the Western District, will be promoted and replace Neuberger.
Neuberger, 57, won’t be leaving public service. He plans to take a job with the Homeland Security and Emergency Management division of the state Department of Public Safety.