A challenge coin inscribed with the Maryland State Police logo along with graphic imagery and offensive language has some troopers concerned because they see it as a potential response to allegations of racial discrimination within the agency.
Photos of the coin obtained show the state police insignia with images of female anatomy and references to people being offended. Challenge coins are tokens that people in organizations such as law enforcement collect to commemorate events or membership.
The coin is being interpreted as a reaction to issues raised by Black troopers about disparate treatment around discipline, hiring and promotions and racist incidents within the agency, according to leaders of the Coalition of Black Maryland State Troopers and the Randallstown NAACP.
Branch President Ryan Coleman said he has heard from troopers who saw the coin as part of an attempt to “downplay the plight of minority and women troopers” and called it evidence of a culture that could be having a broader effect on residents.
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“If people of color who are troopers, or police who are women, if they’re not being treated properly, how is the regular citizen going to be treated?” Coleman said. “If you don’t even like the people you work with, how is a regular motorist or someone who needs help, how will they fare?”
Sgt. Anthony Alexander, the coalition’s president, said he received images of the coin Thursday and heard concerns from several of the coalition’s roughly 45 members. There’s been “animosity and division” following recent complaints and the coin is the most recent example of a culture that needs to change, he said. He plans to send a letter about the coin to the superintendent.
“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.”
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Maryland State Police became aware of the coin in January and the agency is investigating its creation, including whether someone in the agency was involved with the coins' “design, manufacturing/purchase or sale,” spokeswoman Elena Russo said in an email. Russo said the agency hasn’t identified the person “responsible for this violation of Department policy” and urged anyone with information on who created it to contact internal affairs. Investigations of other coins have led to disciplinary or administrative actions, she said.