Maryland State Police say they are investigating the circulation of an offensive challenge coin making its way around the ranks, News4 is first to report.
It's not the first time this has happened. This time, some African American troopers say this coin is directed at them.
It's a challenge coin so offensive, we had to blur most of it for publication. It shows a drawing of female genitalia and reads "These ------ can't take a pounding” on one side and continues with more insults on the other side.
Some African American troopers say the coin is retaliation against their complaints about alleged racism and discrimination within the department. Those complaints led to the superintendent testifying before the Maryland General Assembly's Legislative Black Caucus.
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“They are using the Maryland state brand to circulate these things, so something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now,” said Rodney Morris, former president of the Coalition of Maryland State Troopers.
Offensive challenge coins previously have circulated among Maryland State Police. There was the Make Waldorf Great Again coin last year. The department said two officers were found responsible and faced administrative action.
There was also a coin shaped like male genitals, in 2021. State police say a trooper was disciplined for it.
In this latest case, state police said they’ve known about the coin since January.
“An immediate investigation was ordered to confirm any possibility of someone from within the Department who may be involved with the design, manufacturing/purchase or sale of the coins. Since this time, we have been unable to identify the individual responsible for this violation of Department policy,” the department said in a statement.
Morris said, “It’s not hard for them to find that out. If they do the proper investigation, they should be able to find out who is the originator.”
Sonia Pruitt, a former Montgomery County police officer and past president of the National Black Police Association, said she worries about the message the coin sends to women troopers.
“These things just never seem to stop, especially in policing where you would think this would be the last place you’d expect to see this, from professional law enforcement officers,” she said.
Morris says the coin is a slap in the face after changes the superintendent promised.
“These things were supposed to be in the past, but we can see that today there’s a climate where these things are being regularly accepted,” he said.
The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives also weighed in on the coins.
“The coins are offensive, and no matter who was the target audience, the coins undermine women in general, not just in policing,” they said in a statement. “NAWLEE trusts that the Maryland State Police will continue to seek out who is responsible for producing and distribution [of] the coin, and deal appropriately with the offenders."
The police department asked for help with their investigation and told anyone with information to reach out to internal affairs.
CORRECTION (June 3, 2022, 9:45 am.): This story has been updated to reflect that Sonia Pruitt is a former officer, not current officer.