'Bloodhound' Alberio calls it a career at 55
Lee Vague has never known a Woodbury Public Safety Department that didn't include Jay Alberio.
The two stood shoulder-to-shoulder the day Vague was sworn in as a rookie cop and Alberio was promoted to sergeant.
But for the first time in his career at Woodbury, Vague, now the city's Public Safety director, returns to work without Alberio at the police station. The 55-year-old investigative commander retired on Friday, Dec. 28, after 27 years with the department.
Vague reflected on his time with Alberio, who he called "the most talented detective I have ever met."
"Jay Alberio is renowned for being a bloodhound and being able to catch bad guys," he said.
An instrumental figure in solving many of Woodbury's major cases - including the arrest of convicted rapist Tony Jackson in 1997 - Alberio said he's always had an itch to get to the bottom of things.
"I just love to be able to solve the mystery," he said, joking that his desire to crack cases borders on the obsessive. "Maybe it's a disorder I have."
Turning serious, Alberio said catching criminals is serious business with a serious mission.
"I don't like to see people victimized," he said.
A former Marine, Alberio got his start in law enforcement as a reserve with Minneapolis police. He began with Woodbury in 1986, where he started out as a patrol officer. Through the years, he worked his way up through the ranks as a sergeant, patrol sergeant, investigator and, lastly, in his current role as investigations commander. In between, he has also worked in an administrative role for the department and spent a couple years working as a dual police officer-firefighter for Woodbury Public Safety.
But at no time during those years did the job become a drag for him.
In fact, with just two days to go in his career, Alberio still wasn't counting down the days.
"I've truly enjoyed coming to work," he said. "I've never gotten up and dreaded coming to work."
His attitude and enthusiasm for the job have shown through, Vague said. He said through the years, Alberio has been a mentor to many officers and detectives.
"I think that's his legacy," he said.
The job has always meant being a beacon of responsibility, Alberio said. He follows a motto that he said he shared with his niece, a cop in Chaska.
"Everything you do - on and off duty - is a reflection on all of us in law enforcement," he said.
Over the years, Alberio has been involved in many of Woodbury's most notable criminal investigations.
That includes the arrest of Tony Jackson, who sexually assaulted a waitress at Sunsets in Woodbury, where he also worked.
"That was one of the more memorable ones," Alberio said.
Jackson, who was later convicted and sent to prison on consecutive sentences, was convicted on numerous other sex assaults around the Twin Cities.
Other cases Alberio worked on included the case of convicted murderer Tony Roman Nose and a group that piled up hundreds of thousands of dollars selling vehicles that had been purchased fraudulently using counterfeit cashier's checks.
But if there has been one constant through all those cases, Alberio said it has been the cooperation between agencies in collaring the crooks. He said inter-agency cooperation has only improved over the years and has been enhanced by technology.
"We do a lot better job of working together and sharing resources," Alberio said, adding that the exchange of surveillance photos has gone from a monthly flyer to a system where information is shared daily. "It's almost instant nowadays."
Alberio now moves on into a retirement phase that will begin with a nice, long month in Florida. What happens after that? He doesn't have firm plans, but has been exploring the possibility of working part-time at a local golf course and working in law enforcement training.
"I'm moving on to the next chapter," he said.
Patrol Cmdr. Scott Wills will step into Alberio's job in investigations. The retirement will mean promotions for a new patrol commander and a new patrol sergeant, though those decisions were still being made last week.