The Long Beach Police Department Is Not Happy About '2020 Riot' Merchandise and Challenge Coins Bearing Its Name
The Long Beach, Calif., police department is launching an investigation into challenge coins and other merchandise branded with “2020 riots” and the department's name.
Clear Hot Gear, a company that sells apparel, bags and other products relating to law enforcement and “tactical” purposes, is selling a challenge coin and sticker pack that says “Long Beach Police - 2020 Riot.” The reverse side of the coin reads "hats and bats." It is also selling similar coins and stickers for Los Angeles County.
The actual Long Beach Police department is not happy about the products, saying that it “does not reflect our professional standards, core values and commitment to our community,” per the Press Telegram.
LBPD's official statement on the "2020 Riot" skull memorabilia. At least they didn't say they just became aware of the issue. As you can see from my other tweets today, LBPD officers have a long history of making commerative items with skull images. pic.twitter.com/AJGKFxIybX
— Greg Buhl (@LegalShepherd) August 25, 2020
A department spokesperson said that challenge coins can be created only when an employee submits a request through the chain of command and receives approval from an outside funding source and the chief of police. Obviously, these coins in particular did not go through that approval process, and the police department said it has no involvement with the coins.
The Press Telegram also reported that it notified the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department about the coins, which both departments said they were unaware of, and asserted that they did not authorize. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Lt. John Satterfield told the Press Telegram that, while the coins aren’t illegal, they don’t “fall in line with the department’s core values.”
Using these logos is legal under the First Amendment, and the seals/logos themselves are public domain. So, while Clear Hot Gear isn’t doing anything legally wrong, it’s something that police departments should look into if it poorly reflects their reputations by implying threat of violence.
Especially with the ongoing social unrest in the U.S., it creates unnecessary controversy and poor optics for police departments.