PHOENIX -- The granddaughter of the first African-American deputy from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, who was killed in the line of duty, was presented with a plaque that commemorates her grandfather's service and sacrifice.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave the plaque to Kiana Ford on Tuesday afternoon.
The Sheriff's Office honored Deputy Gerald Barnes with a plaque during a ceremony in the Sheriff’s Training Center in February commemorating Black History Month.
Ford, a 36-year-old nurse, requested a duplicate plaque from the Sheriff's Office, and the request was granted.
Deputy Gerald Barnes drowned on Oct. 5, 1957, in a canal after his law enforcement plane crashed tracking cars involved in a robbery. Arpaio said the plaque honors a long tradition of sacrifice from the deputies in the Sheriff’s Office.
"The employees today, in the past and in the future will do whatever they can to protect the public at the risk of their own lives," Arpaio said.
Ford, who grew up in Hawthorne, Calif., said the recognition of her grandfather’s sacrifice meant a lot to her. She did not know a lot about Barnes, she said, because her mother was only 3 years old when he died. She learned about the accident that led to his death from an article her aunt found in 2007, but she did not think about it until she moved to the Valley two years ago.
Ford said she requested a copy of the plaque so she could have something in memory of her grandfather that she could pass to her three sons, one of whom is interested in law enforcement.
"I have a wall," she said. "As soon as you walk into…my house, there’s a wall to the left. [The plaque] is headed right there."
It was the first time someone had requested a copy of a plaque, according to James Estrada of the Sheriff’s Office, who added that copies can be made in the future if anyone requests one.