The Ontario Medal for Police Bravery
The Ontario Medal for Police Bravery was created in 1975 and is awarded annually to honour police officers who have gone above and beyond to protect and serve their community.
Ontario Medal for Police Bravery Recipients presented alphabetically by service:
Constable Jacob Smits of the Niagara Regional Police Service
Constable Jacob Smits was nearing the end of his shift on July 24, 2012, when he responded to a call about an 18-year-old man who was subject of an arrest warrant. Smits was close to the location where the man had last been seen. Given the nature of the call, a second officer was dispatched to provide backup.
As Smits sat in his cruiser waiting for backup, he spotted the suspect walking down the street with a woman. Smits called the man over and explained there was a warrant for his arrest. The officer noticed an immediate change in the suspect's behaviour and became concerned about a potential altercation. Smits took steps to de-escalate the situation by attempting to build a rapport with the man and his girlfriend. He allowed him a cigarette while he explained that the arrest warrant was in relation to a relatively minor charge.
The girlfriend expressed concern over the cost of a lawyer and as Smits explained how to apply for legal aid, the suspect fled on foot. Smits pursued the man in his police cruiser for a short distance before engaging in a foot pursuit through the yard of a house overlooking the Niagara Gorge.
As he exited the yard, Smits could not see the man but heard the sound of breaking branches below. Peering over a retaining wall his worst fears were confirmed. The suspect had jumped over the wall and was standing approximately three metres below on uneven terrain. The man began moving further away and Smits knew that he was at immediate risk of falling into the gorge. Putting himself in an equally perilous situation, Smits leapt over the retaining wall, grabbed a tree branch, and extended an arm to the suspect. Smits and the suspect never made contact and both fell 24 metres into the gorge.
Smits, who was badly injured, was able to radio for assistance and fired his gun several times into the air to alert rescuers of their exact location. Smits was lifted from the gorge after a challenging rescue by the Niagara Regional Police Service Emergency Task Unit, officers from the Niagara Parks Police and the Niagara Falls Fire Department. He was treated for significant injuries. Sadly, despite the best efforts of first responders, the man did not survive the fall.
Sergeant Hubert Beauclair, Ontario Provincial Police, Upsala Detachment, and
Provincial Constable Doug Golding , Ontario Provincial Police, Shabaqua Detachment
Often, Ontario's brave first responders work together in the face of adversity. Close to midnight on Aug. 12, 2012, Ray Pilon, an off-duty volunteer firefighter, offered his personal pontoon boat to assist in a lake rescue. The local Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment had received an emergency call from a woman onboard a sinking boat adrift with her partner on Shebandowan Lake. A tangled rope in the boat propeller had left the vessel without power. The weather was deteriorating fast as a storm moved in and water was washing over the back end of the stricken boat.
Pilon, OPP Sergeant Hubert Beauclair and Provincial Constable Doug Golding set out on rough waters to locate and rescue the victims. Shebandowan Lake is a large body of water. Although Pilon, Beauclair and Golding knew the approximate positioning of the boat, locating the couple was difficult because it was hard to see and the boats lighting and other methods for signalling had been knocked out. Since the rescue pontoon was a privately owned vessel, there was no communication between the rescuers and the Provincial Communication Centre. They were on their own.
Surrounded by high-pounding waves, the rescue vessel nearly capsized when it nosed into the lake and submerged in rough water. Pilon held on to the ship's wheel, struggling for control as the vessel nearly rolled over. Once Pilon had control of the pontoon, the three rescuers quickly assessed the situation. They knew that time was of the essence and the victims aboard the floundering boat could not survive long in these conditions. They continued to fight high winds and rough waters to complete the rescue.
They found the boat stuck on rocks roughly six metres from shore. Boat-to-boat transfers are tricky in the best conditions. The occupants were suffering from exposure, without life jackets, hysterical and had been consuming alcohol. The couple was rescued from the boat, which had to be abandoned. Had it not been for Pilon, Beauclair and Golding putting their safety in jeopardy, there may have been a different outcome.
Firefighter Raymond Pilon will also receive the Ontario Medal for Firefighter Bravery.
Provincial Constable Patrick Smith, Ontario Provincial Police, Upper Ottawa Valley Detachment
On July 13, 2013, the OPP received a frantic 9-1-1 call that a youth swimming in the Ottawa River had been swept away by a strong current. He was grabbing hold of a rock in the middle of the river and was hanging on to prevent from being pulled into the rapids. The boy had been in the water for approximately 45 minutes before his friend made the call.
Provincial Constable Smith arrived on the scene with two other officers. The boy was waist deep in water and yelled to the officers that he could no longer feel his legs and didn't know how much longer he could hang on to the rock. The officers radioed for an OPP helicopter, but assistance was approximately 30 minutes away. With time running out, they decided to attempt a rescue.
The officers tied two lengths of rope together and attached a life ring. The plan was to swim to the youth and pull him back to shore. Smith reached the boy on a second attempt and was being pulled back. However, the force of water and the weight of both individuals were too great and the rope gave way, leaving Smith and the youth stranded. The officer was able to perch the youth in a shallower spot before getting caught in the rapids. Fortunately, a piece of the broken rope was caught on an old, overturned boat lodged on rocks from an unrelated incident. Smith was able to hold on.
The Pembroke Fire Department arrived on the scene by boat. The boat had difficulty manoeuvering in the swift current and became lodged on stones in the rapids. The firefighters were close enough to throw a rope to the youth and pull him into the boat. Unfortunately, Smith was too far back in the rapids to be reached.
While manoeuvering the vessel away from the rapids, the motor struck rocks on the bottom of the river, causing major damage to the propeller. Any attempt to rescue Smith by boat was now too dangerous. A rescue helicopter arrived and Smith was successfully pulled from the river. He had spent over two hours in the frigid waters and was treated for hypothermia. Because of his actions, the boy survived and a tragedy was averted.
Sergeant Jeff Alderdice of the Toronto Police Service
In 2011, Sergeant Jeff Alderdice was serving a nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan as part of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police deployment. On Feb. 12, he received an urgent message from a U.S. Army captain that police headquarters in downtown Kandahar was under attack, and he was to return to the scene. Upon arrival, Alderdice, two U.S. Army captains and their team came under fire from Taliban insurgents situated on the top floor of a nearby hotel.
The armoured vehicle that Alderdice was in began returning fire. Alderdice noticed an armoured vehicle operated by U.S. Army Captain Lonni Johnston was also under attack, and the Afghan National Police (ANP) officers approaching the vehicle were insurgents in ANP uniforms.
Knowing Johnston was alone in his vehicle, Alderdice requested permission to assist the captain. Determining that their lives were in danger, Alderdice used the optical scope on his rifle to shoot at targets firing from the top floor of the hotel. When he sensed it was clear, he ran across the compound to rejoin Johnston.
Machine gun fire and grenades exploded around them. Alderdice continued to take the fight to a resolute enemy. During a lull in the fighting, he noticed ANP officers had abandoned an area of the compound. Johnston ordered him and an army specialist to a nearby guard tower. Once again, Alderdice was the target of enemy fire.
Alderdice was relieved by other U.S. forces and returned to his vehicle. It was then that a large explosion came from the second floor of the hotel, destroying an army vehicle and injuring several U.S. service members. This was followed by a second explosion two hours later. Alderdice was ordered to assist Johnston with the casualties and applied first aid where he could. Once the living were removed, he assisted in recovering the bodies of deceased ANP and Afghan soldiers.
Alderdice suffered permanent hearing damage that day, the result of rocket-propelled grenades launched at the hotel to suppress insurgent fire. Johnston later had this to say about the Toronto police officer:
"Had it not been for Sergeant Alderdice, I would have found myself alone without proper backup and potentially being a casualty ... Sergeant Alderdice's action and courage under fire are not only a demonstration for all soldiers to epitomize, but is the example of what the Canadian law enforcement community exemplifies and is a credit to his countrymen."
Constable Bill Peterson of the Toronto Police Service
On Dec. 8, 2013, Toronto Police Service Constables Bill Peterson and Jeff Wesley responded to a report that a young man was attempting to take his life by jumping off a city bridge. When the officers arrived on scene, the man was sitting on a bridge post with his legs dangling over the edge.
Peterson and Wesley quietly approached him from behind. Peterson noticed the man was sliding himself off the post and could fall 30 metres to the valley below. With only a moment to act and no consideration for his own safety, Peterson leaped onto the 1.5-metre post and grabbed the man in a bear hug just as he had made his final push off the bridge.
Peterson was sprawled on his stomach, with his feet off the ground as he fought to hold onto the man, who was dangling over the side of the bridge. The man struggled to break free, putting the officer's life in danger. Without hesitation, Wesley ran over and grabbed Peterson by the ankles to prevent him from falling.
Dragged forward by the weight of the man, both police officers were able to pull him back onto the bridge and to safety. Peterson sustained injuries to his legs and arms in the rescue. Peterson's heroic actions stopped a man from taking his life that day.
Constable Jeff Wesley will receive a Letter of Merit for helping to bring the man to safety and coming to the aid of his partner when his life was in danger.