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 literally thousands of law enforcement decorations in existence.

A Law Enforcement Purple Heart and Certificate issued by the National Association of Chiefs of Police

Usage and historyEdit

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 and Chicago Police Department. 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.[1]

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 and state officials. Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security issue medals under the authority of the United States government 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, 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, with simply different names as police awards. After numerous complaints to both the Sanford police and the Fraternal Order of Police, the department discontinued this practice of wearing U.S. military awards in lieu of unique police decorations.[2]

Index of law enforcement awardsEdit

The following sections list various police decorations by awarding agency

Columbia Police DepartmentEdit

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

Denver Police DepartmentEdit

  • 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 DepartmentEdit

  •   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 DepartmentEdit

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

Los Angeles Police DepartmentEdit

  •   Los Angeles Police Medal of Valor
  •   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 DepartmentEdit

  • Medal of Honor
  • Medal of Valor
  • Medal of Commendation

Minnesota State PatrolEdit

Award Criterion[3][4]
Valor Award The Valor Award is for an outstanding degree of dedication and devotion above and beyond professional duty that involved an imminent and undisputable risk of loss of life to the employee. This award is given for an act or series of acts committed with outstanding courage in a situation that, because of its extraordinary circumstance, placed the employee and/or others in actual physical jeopardy. While exposed to danger, the person must have acted with deliberate intent, exercised judgment and performed competent action that reflects credit and admiration upon the employee and the Minnesota State Patrol. This award may be presented posthumously to the next-of-kin of the employee/enforcement officer who would have received the award.
Purple Heart This recognition may be awarded to employees seriously injured or killed from acts of aggression or assaults upon them while performing job-related duties. The person's injuries must involve a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of their body's ability to function. This award may be presented posthumously to the next-of-kin of the employee who would have otherwise received the award.
Trooper of the Year This award is presented to the trooper who best demonstrates outstanding work performance, initiative, leadership and effective interpersonal relations.
Civilian Employee of the Year This award is presented to the non-sworn employee who best demonstrates outstanding work performance, initiative, leadership and effective interpersonal relations.
Leadership Award This award is presented yearly to the employee who consistently exhibits outstanding leadership and excellence in public safety through their personal actions, guidance, direction and professional involvement.
Eagle Squadron Award Each year, the Eagle Squadron Award is presented to the Minnesota State Patrol trooper who arrested the greatest number of impaired drivers the previous year.
Exceptional Service Award This award is presented to employees who have provided extraordinary service in the performance of their duties.
Meritorious Service Award This award is presented to employees for acts involving personal risk-posing hazards that could lead to serious injury or loss of life to the employee.
Chief's Commendation Award – Communications/911 This award is presented to radio communications operators who provide vital, life-saving services that lead to the rescue of a person, provide outstanding performance during a special event, or provide a consistent, sustained, high level of customer service.
Life Saving Award This award is presented to members of the State Patrol who distinguish themselves by performing acts that prevent the death of another.
Minnesota State Patrol Commendation Award This award is presented to members of another law enforcement or emergency service agency who have assisted the State Patrol in providing a significant service.
Meritorious Citizenship Award This award is presented to individuals other than State Patrol employees who helped the State Patrol in providing a significant service to the public.

Montgomery County Police DepartmentEdit

Award Ribbon Criterion
Medal of Valor The MCPD's highest award, the Medal of Valor is awarded to an MCPD officer for heroism and distinction in extremely hazardous circumstances. In order to be considered for this honor, an employee must exhibit unusual bravery in the performance of duty while facing the threat of death of serious injury.[5]
Life Saving Award The Life Saving Award is given to an MCPD officer who makes a major contribution toward saving the life of another by providing essential medical treatment prior to arrival of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel.[6]
Commendation A Commendation is awarded to an MCPD officer who makes a significant contribution to the mission of the department beyond the ordinary call of duty. It recognizes those incidents wherein the member's courage, resourcefulness, tenacity, and/or perseverance in the performance of the employee's duties has resulted in the protection of life or property, the prevention of a major crime, or the apprehension of an armed and dangerous criminal.[7]

New York City Police DepartmentEdit

Oklahoma City Police DepartmentEdit

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

Philadelphia Police DepartmentEdit

  • 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 DepartmentEdit

  • 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 nine Districts)
  • Proclamation by the Mayor of the City of Saint Louis
  • Proclamation by the City of Saint Louis Board of Aldermen

Sanford Police DepartmentEdit

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 DepartmentEdit

  • 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wadman,R., To Protect and to Serve: A History of Police in America, Pearson Publishing (2003)
  2. ^ Ingersoll, G., "Florida's Sanford Police Department Cancels Use Of Military Ribbons After Outrage", Business Insider (Retrieved 2 Dec 19)
  3. ^ ""Ask a Trooper" explains what the white and blue pins on uniforms stand for". www.kdal610.com.
  4. ^ "2017 Annual Awards Ceremony". www.dps.mn.gov/divisions/msp.
  5. ^ "Montgomery County Police Department". www.facebook.com.
  6. ^ "Montgomery County Police Department". www.facebook.com.
  7. ^ "Montgomery County Police Department". www.facebook.com.

{ 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 .