“I don’t see myself as a hero,” says Sgt. Jeffery Alderdice of the Toronto Police Service. But the Canadian Medal of Bravery awarded to him in December by the Governor General says otherwise.
Alderdice, a sociology and criminology graduate (BA 1990 UTSC) who currently oversees a group of officers patrolling the streets of Etobicoke, spent nine months in Afghanistan working for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as part of a program to mentor Afghan police officers.
In Afghanistan, Alderdice stayed with an American army unit in Kandahar province (one of the most dangerous parts of the country) because the unit was near the Afghan Police Service headquarters, where high-ranking Afghan officers were stationed. Alderdice’s job was to mentor these officers. With his background in detective work, he was experienced in handling violent crimes, so he was assigned to teach them crime-scene, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism techniques, as well as community policing strategies.
On Feb. 12, 2011, Alderdice and an American army convoy were called to police headquarters in the city of Kandahar to help repel a surprise Taliban attack. An American officer from his unit, Captain Lonni Johnston, “was alone in a forward position, coordinating our response,” says Alderdice. “The enemy figured out where he was and began concentrating their fire.” Alderdice got permission to leave the convoy, reached Johnston and moved him to safety.
The battle raged on for five hours. Alderdice returned to base covered in blood after helping tend to wounded Afghan officers caught by an improvised explosive device that detonated outside their headquarters.
“In policing, 99 per cent of us are never tested to the brink,” he says. “We wonder if we will respond appropriately. I now know that I personally will respond appropriately under the most severe of circumstances.”
Receiving the Medal of Bravery at a Rideau Hall ceremony attended by the U.S. officer whose life he had saved was a bonus for Alderdice.
“If there was closure for all of my experiences, that was it,” he says. “It was an incredibly proud day for me personally, and for my family and friends.”