United States law enforcement decorations



United States law enforcement decorations are awarded by the police forces of the United States of America. Since the United States has a decentralized police force, with separate independent departments existing on the state and local level, there are thousands of law enforcement decorations in existence.

Usage and history

Law enforcement medals and badges first appeared in the late 19th century, as used by some of the (then) largest police departments in the country, such as the
New York City Police Department The New York City Police Department (NYPD), officially the City of New York Police Department, established on May 23, 1845, is the primary municipal law enforcement agency within the City of New York, the largest and one of the oldest i ...
Chicago Police Department The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is the municipal law enforcement agency of the U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois, under the jurisdiction of the City Council. It is the second-largest municipal police department in the United States, behind t ...
. Early law enforcement awards were often pins and badges awarded on a case-by-case basis. Standardized law enforcement awards began to appear once police departments began issuing more codified and structured uniform regulations. Originally, law enforcement awards were rarely awarded, and then only for acts of heroism or bravery. The oldest police awards thus have such names as "Medal of Valor" and "Medal of Honor". Later in the 20th century, police departments began issuing medal ribbons for such routine tasks as years of service, completion of training, or simply general membership in the police. Law enforcement awards, historically the domain of larger city departments, became more common with smaller local and town offices, as well as Sheriff's departments, towards the end of the 20th century. Typically, law enforcement decorations are bestowed by a particular police department and may only be worn and displayed while a police officer is serving as a member of that particular law enforcement activity. Most such awards are provided by city,
county A county is a geographic region of a country used for administrative or other purposes Chambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French ...
and state officials. Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and the
Department of Homeland Security The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for public security, roughly comparable to the interior or home ministries of other countries. Its stated missions involve anti-ter ...
issue medals under the authority of the
United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the national government of the United States, a federal republic located primarily in North America, composed of 50 states, a city within a f ...
which are considered separate civilian government awards. Law enforcement awards are often independently designed by the city, town, or county, where they are issued and many have a unique appearance to separate them from U.S. military awards (which are themselves often authorized for wear on police uniforms by military veterans). During the
trial of George Zimmerman ''State of Florida v. George Zimmerman'' was a criminal prosecution of George Zimmerman on the charge of second-degree murder stemming from the killing of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. On April 11, 2012, George Zimmerman, a Hispanic ma ...
, the Sanford Police Department came under heavy criticism when it was revealed on national television that their officers were wearing U.S. military awards, including such decorations as the
Defense Distinguished Service Medal The Defense Distinguished Service Medal is a military decoration of the United States Department of Defense, which is presented to United States Armed Forces service members for exceptionally distinguished performance of duty contributing to the ...
, with simply different names as police awards. After numerous complaints to both the Sanford police and the
Fraternal Order of Police The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is a fraternal organization consisting of sworn law enforcement officers in the United States. It reports a membership of over 355,000 members organized in 2,100 local chapters (lodges), state lodges, and th ...
, the department discontinued this practice of wearing U.S. military awards in lieu of unique police decorations.Ingersoll, G., "Florida's Sanford Police Department Cancels Use Of Military Ribbons After Outrage"
Business Insider
(Retrieved Dec 2, 19)

Index of law enforcement awards

The following sections list various police decorations by awarding agency

Columbia Police Department

* Medal of Valor * Purple Heart * Certificate of Commendation * Letter of Appreciation

Denver Police Department

* Denver Police Medal of Honor * Denver Police Service Cross * Denver Police Medal of Valor * Police Purple Heart * Police Lifesaving Medal * Police Campaign Medal * Physical Fitness Award

Elyria Police Department

* Elyria Police Medal of Honor * Elyria Police Medal of Valor * Police Lifesaving Medal * Police Medal of Merit * Police Purple Heart * Police Commendation Medal * Safe Driving Medal * Tactical Squad Service Medal * Community Service Medal * Police Education Medal * Advanced Certification Medal * Field Training Officer Medal * Top Gun Medal * Police Honor Guard Medal

Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department

* Medal of Honor * Purple Heart * Medal of Valor * Medal of Bravery * Medal of Merit * Ruthann Popcheff Memorial Award

Los Angeles Police Department

Los Angeles Police Medal of Valor The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Medal of Valor is the highest law enforcement medal given by the LAPD. The Medal of Valor is an award for bravery, usually given for individual acts of extraordinary bravery or heroism performed in the lin ...
* Liberty Award * Police Medal for Heroism * Los Angeles Police Star * Police Lifesaving Medal * Police Commission Distinguished Service Medal * Police Distinguished Service Medal * Police Meritorious Service Medal * Police Meritorious Achievement Medal * Community Policing Medal * Human Relations Medal * Police Commission Unit Citation * Police Meritorious Unit Citation * Reserve Police Officer Service Ribbon * 1984 Summer Olympics Ribbon * 1987 Papal Visit Ribbon * 1992 Civil Disturbance Ribbon * 1994 Earthquake Ribbon

Minneapolis Police Department

* Medal of Honor * Medal of Valor * Medal of Commendation

Minnesota State Patrol

Montgomery County Police Department

New York City Police Department

* NYPD Medal of Honor * NYPD Combat Cross * NYPD Medal of Valor * NYPD Purple Shield * Meritorious Police Duty (MPD) Honorable Mention * Meritorious Police Duty (MPD) Exceptional Merit * Meritorious Police Duty (MPD) Commendation or Commendation – Integrity * Meritorious Police Duty (MPD) Commendation – Community Service * Meritorious Police Duty (MPD) * Excellent Police Duty (EPD)

Oklahoma City Police Department

* Oklahoma Police Medal of Honor * Oklahoma Police Cross * Police Medal of Valor * Medal of Meritorious Service

Philadelphia Police Department

* Sgt. Robert F. Wilson III Commendation for Valor * Commendation for Bravery * Commendation for Heroism * Commendation for Merit * Commendatory Citation * RNC Service Ribbon * Military Service Ribbon

Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department

* Saint Louis Meritorious Award * Saint Louis Medal of Valor – Crusade Against Crime * Saint Louis Chief of Police Letter of Accommodation * Saint Louis Captains Letter of Accommodation * Saint Louis Officer of the Year Award * Saint Louis Officer of the Month Award (Given each month in each of the Six Districts) * Proclamation by the Mayor of the City of Saint Louis * Proclamation by the City of Saint Louis Board of Aldermen

Sanford Police Department

Prior to the controversy surrounding the display of obvious U.S. military award ribbons as police decorations, the Sanford police issued these ribbons (in order of precedence shown below) before discontinuing the practice. * * * * * *

St. Louis County Police Department

* St. Louis County Medal of Honor * Police Medal of Valor * St. Louis Distinguished Service Citation * St. Louis Meritorious Service Citation * Police Purple Heart * Citizen's Recognition Medal

See also

Police ranks of the United States The United States police-rank model is generally quasi-military in structure. A uniform system of insignia based on that of the US Army and Marine Corps is used to help identify an officer's seniority. Ranks Although the large and varied number ...
* Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor


United States law enforcement { NACOP} Awards the Law Enforcement Officers, Purple Heart to Officer Scott T Barnes 41 years after he was wounded and sustained injuries in the Line of Duty for a shooting that occurred in 12-17-77 on Ridgecrest PD. He was awarded the Law Enforcement Purple Heart by the American Police Hall of Fame & Museum this 10-18-18 nearly 41 years after the shooting of the suspect and the wounding of Officer Barnes while he engaged the suspect who had already injured 2 officers .