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Taylor Mill Police Design New Challenge Coin

A new third generation Challenge Coin will debut at the Northern Kentucky Police Memorial in Covington this week.

The coin was designed by Taylor Mill Police Sergeant Cyrus Harris, with Jim Ediger of Americasmint.com.

The large coin is about the size of a business card, and was designed in time to be available at the annual police memorial ceremony on Wednesday morning.

"This coin is dedicated to all police officers," said Harris. "The theme is the thin blue line, and one side has the flag, and an officer saluting the flag, and the thin blue line. It is the size of a standard business card, so you can display it, or give it, or just carry it."

The weighty coin has a rich, antiqued gold finish, but Harris said the other colors are subdued so the blue line is emphasized. On the other side is the a badge of the Taylor Mill Police Department, and the signature seal of Taylor Mill, with the mill and green fir trees around it. At the bottom of the second side is a line that says Taylor Mill Police Department is a nationally accredited law enforcement agency.

This coin represents the third time the police department has designed and printed a coin.

Challenge Coins began in Roman times when Emperors rewarded soldiers' achievements by giving them coins.

Coins known as portrait medals were given in Renaissance times to commemorate events regarding royalty or nobility.  

Others came from the World Wars.

Before the United States entered World War I, volunteers filled new plane squadrons, and many of those volunteers were wealthy college students.

As the story goes, a rich lieutenant ordered medallions to be made and he distributed them to his unit. One of the pilots put a coin in a leather pouch and tied it around his neck. Shortly after he started wearing the coin, his plane was severely damaged by ground fire, and he had to land behind enemy lines, where he was captured by a German patrol. His captors took all of his identification so he wouldn't attempt an escape, but they left his leather pouch alone. He was taken to a small French town near the front.  

Under bombardment that night, the pilot escaped and found civilian clothes to help him avoid German soldiers. He went to the French, but they thought he was a saboteur, and were prepared to execute him, because he had no identification. So he showed them his medallion, and they recognized the insignia of the squadron. With that information, they were able to confirm his identity and he was welcomed instead of executed.

After he returned to his squadron, it became a tradition to carry the medallions. To ensure all the men carried them, on their off hours, if a soldier challenged another soldier to see his medallion, and the soldier produced it, the challenger would have to buy a round of drinks. If the soldier could not produce his coin, he would have to buy the round of drinks.  

The challenge coins have had a history with all the military branches and Congress, where members produce coins to give to their constituents.  

They are given today as awards for accomplishments, or are sold to commemorate special occasions or events or fundraisers.

Police all over the country have made coins to give as awards or for special occasions. This has led to collections of the coins, just like many police officers collect badges from all over the country.

Taylor Mill Police Chief Steve Knauf said he is proud of the coins his department has created, and he hopes to pass them out on Wednesday at the Police Memorial ceremony.

"We will be giving a few coins to each officer so they can distribute them," Knauf said. "They help to brand your department, and they are a good award for the accomplishments of the officers."  

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor