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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


After 18 years, UAPD’s Sgt. Fil Barrera is at home at UA

Nick Smallwood

The University of Arizona Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Filbert Barrera stands proudly in front of the UAPD logo Nov. 11. Barrera began his career in 1998, and he said that the community and the pride of the school have contributed to him staying with UAPD for over 18 years.

To some, becoming a police officer appears to entail just giving out parking tickets. To others, it is a non-stop action movie, chasing down the bad guys and stopping crime in its tracks. While both of these ideas may correlate with the actual duties of a police officer, Sgt. Filbert Barrera of the University of Arizona Police Department shows a side of the police that is not always the first thing that comes to mind: change and compassion for one’s community.

Barrera has been an officer with UAPD since March 1998. While he did not have prior law enforcement experience, he said he had always been interested in the field.

Before he started at UAPD, he held an internship position as a photographer for the Arizona Daily Star during his time at Pima Community College. Barrera also pursued the emergency medical services field. He received his emergency medical technician certification while he was still under 21 years old. However, because of his young age, he was uninsured to drive the ambulance, a requirement for the job, and did not pursue a career as an EMT.

Barrera continued his interest in law enforcement and public safety, and when he was 22 years old, he got his first job as a police officer at the UAPD.

UAPD Chief of Police Brian Seastone hired Barrera in 1998 and explained how he got involved with UAPD.

“We’re very focused on the community oriented aspect,” Seastone said. “From day one, Fil was really on board with that, and that’s what really I think attracted him to the UAPD.”

Barrera echoed this sentiment himself and said that the community and the pride of the school have contributed to him staying with UAPD for over 18 years now.

“It was the people. The people I worked for and the people who work for me now are really good,” Barrera said. “I just love the atmosphere. I’ve met so many interesting people and it’s just been cool.”

Barrera has climbed the ranks over the years, ranging from a patrol officer to a motorcycle corporal to sergeant. Additionally, Barrera is the officer behind UAPD tweets, email and Campus Watch alerts. He holds the responsibility of the UAPD public information officer, charging him with reaching out to the community on behalf of the department.

Barrera also holds a leadership role over two crime prevention officers. These officers deal with outreach and safety education, which range from talking about safety at freshman orientations to inspecting the safety of buildings.

The changing nature of the job can create challenges for Barrera.

“One of things that is challenging for my job is the fact that we have a brand-new crop of kids that come in every year, … so we’re constantly trying to make sure we find new and different ways [to reach out] to kids,” Barrera said. “We’re having to do everything electronically, and finding the different mediums such as social media and email.”

Despite these difficulties, Barrera still remains optimistic about the job. He said he is especially proud of the fact that he gets to work with the design of UAPD T-shirts, hats and banners. One of his favorite job duties is to work basketball games, where he gets to sit at a court-side table while monitoring McKale Center.

“That’s like one of the [most fun] things you could do here,” Barrera said. “It definitely has its rewards here, and that’s why I like it here. There’s work and then there’s times where work is more like fun.”

Apart from officer duties, Barrera has been involved with putting together the UAPD’s annual golf tournament to raise money for the Special Olympics. The event has raised just under $50,000 in its seven years, according to Barrera.

Seastone said that Barrera goes out into the community to find sponsors and donors for the event.

“He jumps in and loves to be involved in nontraditional police work,” said Keith Brittain, the UAPD assistant chief and Barrera’s colleague. “One of our tenets is to be a partner to the community, and he really takes that to heart and tries to involve the community beyond the campus to the city.”

Barrera said he considers the event to be very rewarding. The planning begins in January and ends with the event in June.

“It’s just something that I really enjoy because it’s just like police work: you get to help people you don’t even know,” Barrera said. “It’s very fulfilling.”

Though police officers are able to retire after 20 years of work, Barrera said he plans to work until he reaches 25 years of experience at the UAPD.

After his time with UAPD, Barrera plans on pursuing an advanced degree or working in public information for another company. He has also thought about coaching a high school baseball team because of his experience as a coach for his son’s baseball team and occasionally his football team. In the meantime, he will stay with UAPD.

“It’s kind of funny. I’ve been here 18 years and I’m kind of on the downhill now. It’s gone by so fast,” Barrera said. “It’s been good here.”

Follow Ava Garcia on Twitter.

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