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. It’s the reason why she nominated the 51 Division officer for an Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) Public Heroes Award, presented on April 9 at 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 who believed in me and my son,” recalled the mother. “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 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,” recalled 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.
Chief Blair 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 it’s 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, receives 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.”
Blair was introduced to the IDI nearly a decade ago.
“This is an extraordinary group of people dedicated to inter-cultural dialogue,” he said. “Through the years, we have known each other and worked together, they have been extraordinary partners to us, helping to bring about what I think is the most important dialogue that can take place in a diverse society.”
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 cooperation, tolerance and dialogue, by sharing differences and similarities through various forums.