Had it not been for Constable Crispin Barnes’ timely intervention, Kurtis Crane would be dead or in prison.
Deborah Crane, the founder of the Esplanade Youth Movement, is certain of that and it’s the reason why she nominated the 51 Division officer for an Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) Public Heroes Award which was presented last week at the Oak Ridges Community Centre in Richmond Hill.
Barnes and other officers were summoned to Crane’s residence six years ago for an incident involving her son, who was 16 and in trouble with the law.
“Officer Barnes was the only one that believed in me and my son,” said Deborah Crane. “He became a role model for Kurtis and other young people in the community who weren’t on the right path.”
Barnes was a member of his division’s bail and compliance unit charged with the responsibility of monitoring offenders released on bail.
“Kurtis was on my board, so I knew his history,” said Barnes. “I let him know at the time that he had to take ownership for his actions. It was obvious to me that he was a good kid who was just a follower and that he needed rehabilitation and not incarceration. He also had a good family structure in place and I saw hope in him.”
Within months, Crane was erased from Barnes’ board and he has not had a negative interaction with police. Last year, he enrolled in George Brown College’s sports management program and was a member of the Esplanade youth basketball team that engaged 51 Division officers in a friendly hoops game at the nearby Esplanade Court.
A cop since 2005, Barnes uses basketball to forge close ties between the police and the community.
Eight years ago while assigned to 22 Division, he started the “Shoot Hoops, Not Guns” anti-violence hoops program for young people in some of the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods.
“Chief Bill Blair attended the first event in his uniform and I will always remember him stepping up to the free throw line to launch the occasion and throwing up an air ball,” said Barnes. “With the kids laughing, the Chief calmly stepped back, let everyone know that was just a warm-up toss and coolly sank his next shot. The young people were in awe, not just at him swishing the shot but because he took the time out of his busy schedule to come and spend some quality time with them at a fun event. That meant a lot to them.”
Migrating with his family from Sierra Leone at age one and settling in Ottawa, Barnes was introduced to policing as a career choice by a senior Ottawa officer who encouraged him to finish high school after he was twice suspended for shoplifting and fighting.
Barnes heeded the advice and completed Algonquin College’s law & security program and Humber College’s justice studies course, where he made the dean’s list before securing employment as a Bell Expressview floor manager. He also worked as a court security officer prior to joining Toronto Police.
“Crispin is very humble and he has done a lot of good things and built relationships that we cherish,” said 51 Division Inspector Rob Johnson.
Durham Region Police Service Constable Shaun Carter was also recognized at the event.
Born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area, the son of Jamaican immigrant parents was inspired to become a law enforcement officer by his uncle, Winston Carter, who was a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
Carter graduated from Durham College’s police foundations program and has been assigned to several units in the Service, including drugs, homicide and human resources.
“I have enjoyed my career and this award is special,” said Carter, who has been a police officer since 2001.
Chief Blair, who demits office next week, was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award on his 61st birthday.
“I am deeply honoured by this recognition even though I would like to say its lifetime achieved so far,” said Blair. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that when a person who has had the privilege and opportunity to be member of the Toronto Police Service for nearly four decades and Chief for 10 years receive recognition for achievement, it’s for a team, and not the individual. And when I refer to a team of people, I am not only referring to our TPS members who I admire, respect and quite frankly love but also all our partners in community safety and community service.”
In its fifth year, the Public Heroes Awards recognize cops, firefighters and paramedics for their outstanding work. IDI is a non-profit group that seeks to promote social cohesion through interfaith and intercultural co-operation, tolerance and dialogue by sharing differences and similarities through various fora.