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Toronto Region Board of Trade names Constables Russell Barnett and Josh McSweeney,
2018 TPS Police Officer of the Year

Broadcast time: 21:29
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Corporate Communications

The winners of the 2018 Police Officer of the Year award were announced during the annual reception held this evening at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

This award was created by the Board of Trade in 1967. Its purpose is to recognize officers of the Toronto Police Service who have made significant contributions to making Toronto one of the safest cities in the world. Each month, an officer or a group of officers are selected for Police Officer(s) of the Month based on the following criteria: bravery, humanitarianism, superior investigative work and outstanding police skills.

The monthly winners are then re-evaluated by a panel of judges and a winner is chosen to receive the Police Officer(s) of the Year award.

This year, the winners are Constables Russell Barnett and Josh McSweeney of 11 Division.

These officers demonstrated outstanding bravery, professionalism and dedication to duty. The professional manner with which they conducted themselves is worthy of substantial recognition not only by their peers but also the Toronto Police Service and the community in which it proudly serves.

On August 7, 2018, City of Toronto was hit with a powerful and unforgiving rain storm. Police received a call that two people were stuck in an elevator and that the elevator was flooding with water and the level was quickly rising. The trapped people were unable to reach the upper latch of the elevator to escape.

Police Constables Russell Barnett and Josh McSweeney attended the location and were met by the building staff who directed them to the elevator on the main floor. The officers could see that the elevator below them in the basement had its hatch partially pried open but could not be opened any more than a few inches. They could hear the calls from within the elevator pleading for help.

The officers made their way down to the lower level and faced a large metal door that was locked and almost submerged. This was a locked gate that led to the basement area. A key was handed to them to open the lock which was at this point almost submerged under dark and dirty water. The officers removed their vests and gun belts. The door had no handle and was extremely difficult to open due to the water pressure. Constable Barnett found the key hole and unlocked the door. Then with a large crowbar they made their way through mud filled dirty water swimming towards the elevator door, all the while reassuring the people in the elevator that they were the police and would get them out.

After several attempts the officers were unable to get leverage with the crowbar. The water continued to rise and the officers became anxious and concerned about getting the trapped people out safely. After considerable prying and leveraging they were able to open the first door and later the second set of doors and rescued the two occupants.

The water level in the elevator was less than 5 inches from the top of the elevator and the occupants were standing on the side ledges of the elevator, trying to survive. When the doors were finally opened, one of the men was so overcome with emotion that Constable McSweeney had to swim him to safety.

With zero regard for their own safety, both officers faced obstacle after obstacle but continued to push through each one for a solution to get the citizens to safety.

Police Constables Russell Barnett and Josh McSweeney were also selected as Police Officers of the Month for August 2018.

Congratulations to these two officers and to all the award winners for their continuing efforts to make Toronto a safe city.

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Constable Caroline de Kloet, Corporate Communications, for Superintendent Neil Corrigan, Professional Standards Support