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Cupertino's New Chief Has Long History With City

Capt. Carl Neusel grew up in Cupertino and now leads the West Valley Division of the Sheriff's Department.

The new leader of Cupertino’s law-enforcement efforts, Capt. Carl Neusel, is a big history buff who has a long history with the city.

Neusel, 48, took over last month as new chief of the West Valley Division of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which is contracted by the city of Cupertino for its police services.

Neusel grew up in Cupertino and knows it well. A self-described avid fisherman, he grew up fishing in the creeks, reservoirs and ponds in the surrounding foothills. As a youngster, he rode his bike everywhere around Cupertino with his friends, “just being kids.”

He said he developed a love for the communities in the West Valley as a result of his experiences growing up here.

“Cupertino was and is still a very safe place,” Neusel said. That safety, he said with pride, comes in large part because of the “integral role” the sheriff’s office has played over the years. “It’s largely responsible for why the community is so safe.”

Looking back on his childhood, Neusel said he now realizes his family was poor at times, but his parents believed in the importance of education, so they scrimped and saved to send Neusel to mostly local parochial schools. He attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Saratoga, St. Joseph of Cupertino School, Kennedy Middle School and Bellarmine College Preparatory, where he graduated in 1981.

Neusel went on to San Jose State University, where he got a bachelor's degree in his favorite subject, history. While there, he indulged his love of reading and research through his courses. Delving into the facts of what happened in the past by searching through primary sources, and investigating multiple sources, gave Neusel a deep satisfaction. He especially enjoyed studying modern history, from the time of the French Revolution, and military history.

That all put him in good stead as a law enforcement officer later in life.

“It’s very similar,” he said. “You have to go out and dig up the evidence … you don’t go by second-hand information and hearsay.”

Although Neusel said he always dreamed of a career in law enforcement, he first worked with his father in the family's offset printing business, Roberts Press, near the corner of De Anza Boulevard and Kentwood Avenue 

In his 30s, he pursued a career in law enforcement.

“It always looked like the greatest job in the world, and it has been, even on the worst days,” he said.

Neusel started out as a patrol officer in Cupertino and Los Altos Hills. In the last 13 years, he rose through the ranks, working as a detective out of sheriff’s headquarters on sexual abuse cases, then back to the West Valley as a patrol supervisor. He became a lieutenant, then captain in the personnel and training division. Then he was tapped to lead the West Valley division, taking over for , who retired at the end of December.

Neusel said he reports to Sheriff Laurie Smith, "the greatest boss in the world,” as well as Assistant Sheriff Edward Perry and the city managers of Cupertino, Los Altos Hills and Saratoga.

“My position now as captain is to provide the best law enforcement for the best price,” he said. With city budgets in a serious pinch, Neusel said the sheriff’s office has been able to make cuts and still provide a high level of service.

Some of the biggest crime challenges facing the West Valley Division right now are vehicle burglaries, Neusel said, a problem for agencies all over the Silicon Valley.

He said the department has worked to diminish those burglaries—often performed by crews of burglars who swoop into town—and has arrested some of the offenders. The problem is that once deputies shut down one crew, another pops up, he said.

The smash-and-grab burglaries take less than a minute and usually happen when victims leave valuable items visible in the car.

Traffic enforcement is another issue for Cupertino, which has a lot of congestion around its schools. Neusel said deputies are always attempting not just to enforce but to educate drivers about safety.

Yet another facet of serving Cupertino is its rich diversity.

“We recognize Cupertino is a very diverse community,” Neusel said. He said deputies take time to educate citizens from various cultures about what the department does and what their procedures are, making sure people don’t misinterpret what the deputies are doing.

Above all, Neusel said, he wants people to know “we are their police force. We’re there to serve them … we take that role very seriously.”

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