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Eastern District police commander retires
Neuberger takes a pension and a state job
Thirty-five years to the day from when he started on the St. Paul police force, former Eastern District senior commander Joe Neuberger is out.
He opted for a pension plan and retirement from the St. Paul Police Department, and has been offered a job at the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department. If all goes well he’ll start there later this summer.
In the meantime, he’s hoping to ride his motorcycle and get some projects done around the house -- “the ‘honey-do’ list is very large,” he explained with a chuckle.
Replacing him will be Matthew Toupal, who transferred to the East Side police station from the Western District.
Neuberger reports the transition to civilian life was like quitting something cold turkey.
“(Working as a police officer) is such a large part of your life, and it’s so intense,” he said. “On Thursday I was a police officer, on Friday everything’s off and I’m done.”
Neuberger spent four years as the Eastern District senior commander, and said what struck him most about the area was the dedicated police officers, and an active community voice.
Patrol officers bid for their shifts once a year, he said, and on the East Side “there were only a few that were there not by first choice.”
Neuberger also said the East Side’s community vibe was a highlight of the job -- working with groups like the district councils and through neighborhood policing meetings, “they just went out of their way to make me feel welcome at the start,” he said.
He said the residents and merchants showed their strength during events like the community meeting following the brutal beating of Ray Widstrand by a group of teenagers last August.
“I frankly thought they were really going to ... rake us over the coals,” he said, but “it ended up being more therapeutic.”
“It was a testament to the cops and the citizens over there. ... They understand, we don’t have a magic wand.”
Rather, it’s a group effort, he said.
Neuberger said though the East Side has had its share of dramatic incidents during his time there, “I try to look at them as challenges.”
A good asset
He said police integrating themselves into the community has improved in his time on the East Side -- he pointed to programs like the curfew enforcement, the new police program called the Community Response Team, and the Summer Safe Streets initiative, as ways the city is stepping up to address problems with youth in the area.
He said he’d still stay active in the neighborhood in some ways, while giving Toupal some breathing room.
He’ll stay on the East Side YMCA community board, and hopes to attend community events from time to time, he said.
The timing is, in part, due to a pension plan, which has prompted a number of veteran officers to retire recently.
Tim Herman, director of the East Side Business Association, said Neuberger has been a good asset.
“He’s been great to work with,” Herman said. “He’s been very responsive to the business community.”
Herman said Neuberger was a straight shooter, which resonated well with residents: “He’s not going to give you a smokescreen,” Herman said. “He’s going to tell you exactly what he thinks. The community has really appreciated that.”
Jill McRae, patrol commander for the Eastern District, said she learned a lot from Neuberger in the past three years they’ve worked together.
“He was very much into mentoring,” she said, and taught her how to connect with the community.
Beyond that, she said he was very much a patrol officer at heart. “Every time we went together to a meeting, he would end up making a traffic stop,” she said. “I’d always say we’d never get to a meeting ... because we were out taking calls.”
Though he’s perhaps got big shoes to fill, Neuberger said his replacement should be “poised to hit the ground running.”
Toupal, the new commander, has spent many years on patrol in the East Side, he said, and Neuberger has seen to it that he’s connected with community leaders.
“I think he’s in a good place,” he said.
Neuberger noted a number of long-time East Side cops will remain on staff to help Toupal plug into the position. “The culture and the philosophy is still there,” he said.
Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.