An investigation by the Maryland State Police has determined that an offensive challenge coin depicting female anatomy was created by an ex-employee who left in 2012, the agency said Wednesday.
Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, the superintendent, said in a statement that he was “disgusted” that anyone who wore the state police uniform would create something that “demeans others and disregards our core values and all this Department stands for.”
The challenge coin came to light publicly last week after photos of its graphic imagery and offensive language were shared with local media. It featured two depictions of female anatomy, along with the Maryland State Police logo and slogans about not being able to take a joke.
One side had an image of a woman’s rear end with underwear reading, “I’m Offended.” The other was a graphic image of genitalia with messaging that included a moniker for a female body part.
[ Explicit challenge coin with Maryland State Police logo prompts outcry from Black, female troopers who see ‘complete disrespect’ ]
It prompted outcry from the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, among others, who questioned what it said about the agency’s culture and whether it was a message to Black troopers who’d raised issues about racism in recent years.
The department said leaders became aware of this coin in January but had been unable as of June 3 to identify who was responsible.
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On Wednesday, in an update, the agency said the Internal Affairs Division had found the “design and manufacture” were “coordinated” by a former state police member; state police did not name the former employee. The news release called it a “derogatory” challenge coin; a spokesperson confirmed the coin being referred to was the one with female anatomy.
Jones said the coin had “disrupted efforts to improve relationships among all our employees and with the citizens we serve.” He added that he’s committed to fair and equitable treatment of employees.
“I condemn [the former employee’s] callous and careless actions and the actions of all who may consider similar disrespectful conduct somehow acceptable,” Jones said in the statement.
Challenge coins are tokens sold or traded in some organizations, such as law enforcement or the military. They’ve led to controversies in other police departments and some have led to discipline within Maryland State Police in recent years.
The agency investigated a green coin in the shape of male genitalia, leading to disciplinary action in 2020. Another that read “Hunt the Animal” underneath “Maryland’s Finest” and what appeared to be a knight also led to administrative action in November.
The latest offensive coin shows there is more work to be done at changing the agency’s culture, Sgt. Anthony Alexander, the president of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers, said last week.
“That’s what’s destroying us, is the culture itself inside the agency that fosters this type of behavior,” Alexander said. “We have to become better as an agency, but we won’t get there until we start really making major changes.”