Meet the new East Side police commander, John Lozoya

At the St. Paul Police Department’s Eastern District, filling the shoes old FORCE Cmdr. Kevin Casper can be a bit of a tough act to follow.

But John Lozoya, who’s taking his place, is up to the challenge.

“He seems really dedicated,” said Karin DuPaul, longtime community coordinator for the Dayton’s Bluff District Council.

While he’s new to the position, Lozoya is no stranger to the East Side. He’s owned a home for six years in the area’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood. He goes running down Wheelock Parkway and visits Lake Phalen Park on a regular basis, he said.

He also previously worked with the Eastern District from 1999-2001, and helped run East Side events like the White Bear Avenue Parade when working for the St. Paul Police Department’s Community Services department.

“I love the East Side,” he said.

Lozoya was promoted to the new role on Nov. 16, his 55th birthday. He’d been filling in in Casper’s absence since August, but the promotion cements him as a permanent fixture.

Casper said he sees Lozoya as “a fabulous fit.”

With previous work as a sergeant on the East Side, as well as his community engagement work through the St. Paul Police Department’s Community Services branch, he’s been a presence in the area, Casper noted.

Casper has worked closely to help Lozoya transition into his new role.

Reaching out to Latinos

“Kevin built a lot of great relationships, and I’d just like to add to that,” Lozoya said. A fluent Spanish speaker, Lozoya figures reaching out to the Latino community could be one way of adding to that.

He noted that the East Side has the largest concentration of Latinos in the city.

Lozoya grew up in a family of migrant workers, traveling around the country for different agricultural harvests, and usually wintering in Denver, Colo.

At 16, his family decided to put down permanent roots in Denver.

Because of this background, he’s a natural fit to reach out to the Latino population.

He’s already connected with the Mexican Consulate, which is just a mile away, near the intersection of East Seventh and Arcade streets.

As of a couple months ago, Spanish-speaking officers began meeting with Spanish-speaking residents to offer advice, insight and any other resources they can provide.

In addition, Lozoya said the department has recently reached out to Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) to do informational meetings about driving regulations, how to get a driver’s license, why you need insurance.

He’s hoping this will help clear up common questions. “You’ve got to remember, a lot of it is heresay” until they hear it directly, he said.

East Side pride

Lozoya said he considers living in the same area that he’s working to be an asset.

“I like living on the East Side, and I’m aware of a lot of the problems, because I live here,” he said.

Lozoya said that among his favorite things about the East Side are the shopping corridors of Payne Avenue and Arcade Street, the parks, like Lake Phalen and Swede Hollow, but also the people.

“I find that my neighbors are pretty nice people ... they’ve got a good sense of community,” he said.

Lozoya’s pride in being an East Sider is subtle, but also obvious: “Kevin lived in Forest Lake,” he chuckled.

While Lozoya said he’s been familiar with the area for a while, “now I’m going to get to know the actual people that live (on the East Side) with me,” he said.

Blue Wave

One way he’s connected with residents is out of the tragic beating of Ray Widstrand he said. After the incident, police stepped up patrols throughout the neighborhood, calling the initiative Blue Wave.

“(That) really exposed me to a lot of the citizens,” he said. “A lot of people were concerned.”

He said the community meeting following the incident, which was overflowing with people, was a sign of positive community engagement, even if folks were critical of the cops.

“I thought it was really great to see the overflow of people, who were willing to find out what’s going on and how to get involved,” he said.

And as for the criticism from residents, “I can put up with criticism, that’s no problem ... the problem is when they’re not engaged and they don’t care what’s happening.”

Lozoya said he’s still getting used to the new position.

The hardest part of the job, he said, is choosing how to prioritize cases. “The ones that jump out, we go wholeheartedly at,” he said. But they can’t pursue every case.

“If the person takes the time to report it, they want something done, or they want us to know,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just so disheartening to know that we can’t follow the case, because there isn’t a suspect identified, or there’s not enough evidence. You just have to move on.”

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

Snowball to the face

East Side police Cmdr. John Lozoya said he first considered being a police officer when he was a boy in Colorado.

In the winters, officers would dole out gifts to kids, including him, he said. It made an impression on him.

“I just saw that the officers were doing something good for the community,” he said. “That kind of turned my eye toward them.”

He also developed a friendship with a cop after doing an act of mischief.

In Denver, winters are a rollercoaster, he explained -- one day it’s snowing and the next day it’s 50 degrees out.

On such a day, an officer was driving by him and a group of friends, when he chucked a snowball into the open window of a squad car, and struck the officer in the face.

The officer chased him down, caught him, and “slapped me in the back of the head a couple of times and took me home,” Lozoya recalled.

“But it was a pretty good experience,” he chuckled. “The officer always kept tabs on me growing up.”

The officer would check on him throughout middle and high school, and encourage him to do well in school.

“Mike Sands ... he kind of guided me in the right direction. I owe a lot to him.”

Lozoya had the luck of running into him after he became a police officer himself.

“He couldn’t believe I had followed in his path,” he said.

 

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