Police challenge coins are small medallions that usually carry the emblem or insignia of a specific law enforcement's unit. Carried by most police officials, the coins are designed to enhance morale and honor those who serve. While the coins exact origins are unconfirmed, it is thought the challenge coin has military beginnings. Military records dating back hundreds of years show the coins were given to soldiers as a memento, to mark a person's service to their country. Several presidents have also received challenge coins, with the most recent being George. W. Bush for his 2007 visit to troops in Iraq.
Police coins come in a variety of different sizes, shapes and designs. Each individual law enforcement unit usually has a coin designed to their own specifications. The coins often have a bronze, silver or gold finish, as well as painted detailing. Why and how the police coins are awarded is usually down to each specific unit. However, it is common practice for an officer to receive a challenge coin after receiving two letters of recommendation following an act of bravery or good deed. These coins are also issued to commemorate a special occasion or to remember officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The coin is seen by many government officials as being a good way to improve relations between officers and the general public, as well as improve PR between the police agencies and other areas of the community. Special challenge coins have been known to raise important funds for charities linked to improving the lives of police officers injured while working.
Members of the public are also able to purchase police challenge coins, with the proceeds going to one of the many charities associated with the individual law enforcement unit. As well as looking after the families of fallen officers and helping injured officers, these coins also help charities linked to improving the general working life of a serving officer. This may include purchasing essential pieces of uniform, improving office space and funding social events for the officers in their down time. These coins are also given to new officers, as a way of marking the end of their training and introduction into their specific police unit.
People can also purchase police coins, as a way of showing their support for the many individuals who work to keep their city safe. Highly collectible, it is not unusual for these coins to be sold at auctions or kept in a person's private collection. President Obama placed the Presidential Challenge Coin on the memorials of the soldiers who were killed during the Fort Hood massacre.. The most sought after coin by collectors is the Bulldog coin, which was given to the gunners of the B-52. Law enforcement officers who own a challenge coin are encouraged to carry it at all times. There are several rules associated with owning one of these coins, the most important being it cannot be defaced in any way. Many individuals drill holes into the coins, so they can wear them on necklaces or lanyards. They are often completely unaware that defacing them in this way means they are no longer considered to be challenge coins.