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Homicide Challenge Coin  

By Public Affairs
Friday, March 4, 2011; 10:58 am

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The Black Ring that encompasses the coin on both sides symbolizes our goal of taking our cases from red to black on the murder board, representing a closed case.

The 9 Stars represent each of the 9 police districts that make up our city.
The Stars are blue to represent the thin blue line that we truly are as the police.

The American Flag is nestled behind the badge and shoulder patch to show our patriotism and is symbolic of the “Star Spangled Banner” having been written in Baltimore City.

The Badge Number is “187” because this number is synonymous with “Murder” throughout the world and thus appropriate for placement as the badge number of the Homicide Unit.

The Side Edge of the coin states the following quote from Daniel Webster – “Every Unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man’s life.”

The numbers “2100” on the coin are symbolic of our extension and how the department refers to the Homicide Unit. They are encased in the color Blue to honor our fallen Officers.

When you lose a coin challenge the coin is placed face down on a flat surface and spun. The coin will spin balanced upon the raised portion of the coin separating the badge and patch on the coin face. The Arrows contain one of the numbers associated with 2100. The number facing you is the number of beverage(s) you must purchase to fulfill your loss.

The Grim Reaper’s face is hidden in the shadow of his robe. This represents the Homicide Detective’s duty to seek the truth and reveal the killer’s true identity.

The Reaper’s Sickle is double edged to symbolize the nature of justice and its equal representation of those who must abide by the law.

The scroll reads, “Our Day Begins When Your Day Ends.” a long standing un-official motto of homicide units worldwide.

The Storm Clouds and Full Moon are reminiscent of the calm before the storm as they loom over the city.


During World War 1, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such as Yale and Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck.

Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilots’ aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. However, he was without personal identification.

He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and reached the front lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French outpost. Unfortunately, saboteurs had plagued the French in the sector. They sometimes masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not recognizing the young pilot's American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him they gave him a bottle of wine.

Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner - a challenger would ask to see the medallion. If the challenged could not produce a medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued on throughout the war and for many years after the war while surviving members of the squadron were still alive.

Since then, military units continued the tradition by having custom made coins with their unit logos and mission statements as a way of building unit cohesion and camaraderie. In the last 10 years or so, law enforcement agencies have joined in the tradition as well.

Updated: 03/04/11; 2:13 pm

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