Tampa police officer connects with community through department program
TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa Police Officer Stefon Filer is participating in some non-traditional policing. He's helping teens learn how to iron, fill out resumes, and conduct job interviews at Hillsborough High School.
It's prepping kids for summer jobs is part of the Shielding Our Teens program within the department. It's more than just potential Filer sees in these teens.
"I see myself in those kids," he said.
Growing up, life for Filer and his four siblings wasn't easy.
"We witnessed a lot of domestic battery and domestic violence in the home," he recalled.
READ: Carrollwood Cultural Center bridging community, culture through variety of arts classes and events
Police were often called to Filer's home.
"Law enforcement would respond to the house. Even though that was a negative situation, I always looked at cops and thought they look squared away with that shiny badge," shared Filer.
One of those responding officers befriended Filer, continually checking up on him.
"Even when he was out and about off work, he would just pop up on us and say hey," Filer recalled.
Later, it was his Army Ranger uncle who made an impact on Filer.
"He would bring us over to his house if he wasn’t training or on a mission. He would just spend time with us. It was time I didn’t have with my dad, time we didn’t have with any male role model," he shared.
The relationship he had with his uncle paved the way for Filer's future.
"I wanted to be everything he was. So that geared me towards it, towards law enforcement," said Filer.
Now, using his own experiences, Filer pays it forward on the streets of Tampa.
"Kids will hear that story and now they’re open. Okay, he is kind of like me. Okay he did go through some of the things I’ve gone through," shared Filer.
Through his mentorship programs, he bridges the gap between law enforcement and the community. And he measures success one positive interaction at a time.
"If I am working on a street somewhere and they see me. My biggest reward is them coming up to me and not having to fear law enforcement. They come up to me like I’m their big brother. It’s happened so many times and I love it," explained Filer.