The Medal of Honour is the Toronto Police Service’s Board highest award for distinguished acts of bravery.
Since the first set was awarded in 1961, to seven officers, only 38 members have received the prestigious honour.
Sergeant Jeff Alderdice, of 22 Division, joined the esteemed list on June 11, when he was presented with the medal at police headquarters. He’s only the second active member to be awarded the Medal of Honour after Detective Mike Leone. Leone was injured while his partner Constable Todd Baylis died in the line of duty on June 17, 1994.
“It’s certainly not lost on me how rare this honour is,” said Alderdice, who joined the Service 19 years ago. “It’s sacred and it’s such a great honour to receive this. If I were going to dedicate it, it would go to the fallen Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan who made the supreme sacrifice with their lives. We can never forget that.”
Alderdice worked closely with United States Army Special Forces Major Lonni Johnston, while he was deployed in Afghanistan three years ago as part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) International Police Peace Operations program that ended last April.
On February 12, 2011, Alderdice was at the provincial police headquarters in Kandahar that was attacked by Taliban fighters. The insurgents opened fire from a wedding hall across the street and then manoeuvred suicide bombers to attack the station.
“Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the downtown core of Kandahar City and an emergency message was relayed that the Afghan National Police provincial headquarters was under attack by an unknown-sized enemy force,” Alderdice recalled. “As we arrived on the scene, we came under fire from about 30 to 40 insurgents whose mission was to kill the police chief because he had made significant inroads with the local population.”
Johnston desperately required assistance when the attack started.
“I needed someone to support me as I was on foot, by myself, after our vehicles were repositioned at points to give the best field of fire,” said Johnston, who was in Toronto two months ago to receive a Toronto Police Service badge from Chief Bill Blair. “I had no one to support me on the ground.”
Help came in the form of Alderdice, who left the armoured vehicle he was in to provide support to Johnston, 30 feet away.
“When I issued a call for support, this person came flying out of a truck without hesitation,” recounted Johnston. “There are lots of restrictions as to what the police officers could do. Jeff, however, broke protocol, knowing that my safety was paramount. I probably may not be here with you today had it not been for his heroism.”
Despite being temporarily knocked unconscious by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him, Johnston regained control and – with Alderdice’s support – fended off the attack by returning fire. U.S military forces then arrived to back up the officers.
Both men assisted in helping those wounded during the attack.
Inspector Gerry Casham heaped praise on Alderdice for his bravery and dedication to service.
“He’s an amazing police officer who has done some fantastic things,” said Cashman. “To have someone like him under your command is remarkable.”
Alderdice’s mother – Colleen Alderdice – along with his niece, Kara Spence, and older sister Wendy Alderdice, attended the awards ceremony.
“We are extremely proud of Jeff,” said his sister. “When he left for Afghanistan, the family was obviously worried about his safety. At the same time, we were very proud that he took on that challenge and elated when he came back to us safely. To know that he went there and helped save lives while going above and beyond the call is something that makes our family very proud of him.”
Among the thousands of things that our people do every single day, some things rise above and beyond the normal call to duty
Last November, Alderdice was presented with the Operational Service Medal, created in 2010 to recognize Canadian police officers, Canadian Forces members, allied forces or Canadian civilians working for the Canadian Forces who had directly participated in a military campaign under Canadian or allied command.
He was also recognized for his heroism with a Federal Medal of Bravery presented by Governor General David Johnston in Ottawa last December.
A total of 89 Service members, along with an Ontario Provincial Police and Durham Regional Police officer and five community members, were recognized for unselfish acts of bravery, courage, exceptional performance of duty and dedicated service.
“Among the thousands of things that our people do every single day, some things rise above and beyond the normal call to duty,” said Blair. “Some things are so extraordinary in the brilliance of the work, the courage that is shown and the overwhelming commitment that our people bring to the work and the ability to work together to make a difference for the people of this city, that it demands recognition from us,” said Blair.
Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee also praised the award recipients.
“The uniformed members we will honour this evening have far exceeded their already demanding day-to-day activities,” he said. “They are living examples of our Service’s core values of honesty, integrity, fairness, reliability, respect, team work and positive attitude. Doing their jobs in neighbourhoods across Toronto, these individuals embody these essential core values into everything that they do.”
It’s great when civilians behind the scene get recognized for their efforts. They are, in essence, our unsung heroes. Words are not enough to express my gratitude.
Community members were honoured for acts of unselfish assistance and initiatives that helped the police. OPP and Durham Regional Police officers Steve Sermet and Brandon Stanway, respectively, were recognized with Chief of Police Letter of Recognition granted to members of outside agencies for excellence in performance of duty, community policing initiatives or innovations or initiatives that enhance the Service’s image or operation.
“To me, this is a testament to the power of partnership,” noted Mukherjee. “It highlights the fact that people working together to help keep our city safe goes to the heart of Toronto’s character. Tonight’s stories demonstrate clearly that when we work together, we have great power and potential.”
A total of 17 Communication Service members were recognized with Teamwork Commendations for exceptional performance of duty. They were on duty on the morning of January 12, 2011, when Sergeant Ryan Russell succumbed to his injuries after being struck by a stolen snowplow.
“I am extremely proud of our folks,” said Communications Services Manager Dion Evelyn. “It’s great when civilians behind the scene get recognized for their efforts. They are, in essence, our unsung heroes. Words are not enough to express my gratitude. There was not a single dry eye in the room that morning, yet our people still carried on in a very professional manner dealing with other calls that came in.”