The NYPD is defending itself against accusations of racism after several challenge coins with “dehumanizing” imagery and phrases surfaced on an auction website, reports Gothamist.
At least four coins dubbing the 67th precinct as “Fort Jah,” an allusion to the large West Indian community in East Flatbush, were listed for sale. The department is claiming not to know the origin of the nickname, which references the Rastafari term for God, Jah.
According to Cracked, challenge coins began in the military before expanding to law enforcement agencies. They are used to commemorate events and boost morale, but are often seen as controversial by the public. Department spokesperson Detective Denise Moroney, says that the most recent coin stems from a 2017 fundraiser for injured officer Dalsh Veve. She says that the use of nicknames for police precincts is common practice dating back to the 1980’s.
Much of the controversy stems from the racist imagery on two of the Fort Jah challenge coins. One, dated to 1992, features an image of two white officers “hunting” a black suspect with dreadlocks and the shadow of an elk. On the back is a Jamaican flag with a slightly altered Ernest Hemingway quote: “For those who like hunting there is no hunting like the hunting of man.”
A separate coin depicts an eagle carrying the skull of a dread-locked man. Moroney denies that these coins have any connection to the department.
For Anthony Posada, a supervising attorney for the Community Justice Unit of the Legal Aid Society, these coins show the “dehumanizing” culture of the NYPD. “Not only are they making fun of the religion and the beliefs and the culture of the people whom they have committed to protect and serve, they’re saying you are the hunted. You are the savages,” he says.
The 67th precinct has one of the highest rates of civilian complaints in the city. In response to the coins surfacing a department spokesperson said that “The NYPD condemns all forms of racism.”
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