The practice of minting custom Challenge Coins is believed to have originated in the first World War, in the Army Air Service. As time went on and veterans began to enter the civilian workforce, the practice of handing out Challenge Coins has migrated from the armed forces into domestic law enforcement. These coins are distributed for the same purposes as the military-in honor of outstanding service, or in commemoration of special events. Some law enforcement Challenge Coins spotlight a specific branch of their police department, such as Vice and K-9 units. As Challenge Coins change hands, this act of recognition raises the morale of the officers.
Recognizing a job well done is the primary function of a Challenge Coin, and as such, it’s becoming more common for graduating classes in police academies to design their own Challenge Coin to commemorate their accomplishments. It’s also popular to incorporate Challenge Coins into other forms of awards, such as plaques, to further personalize them. Challenge Coins also represent the pride officers have in their organization. When different police departments come together in joint operations, they often exchange Challenge Coins as both a greeting and a gesture of respect.
Another way Challenge Coins are used is to venerate officers fallen in the line of duty. Challenge Coins created for the purposes of honoring and remembering the sacrifices of those officers who gave their lives in the course of serving and protecting the public are often distributed as part of charity events to benefit the families of the fallen officers.
Challenge Coins help give thanks for the efforts and sacrifices made by law enforcement. They help build a sense of camaraderie and community among personal as well as between different police departments. They highlight significant events, promote different units within a department, and even contribute to helping bereaved families of fallen officers. From its roots as a military tradition, Challenge Coins have found a home among law enforcement.
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