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September 04, 2013
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Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D. Passion for the Job
with Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

'Possum marksmanship' and 10 more proposed police medals

For those among us who were not destined for glory, I have some suggestions for decorations that can adorn our proud upper torso

I think I look good in uniform, but I’m missing the pins, badges, and bars that some departments have. I know veteran officers that can barely salute in their dress uniforms because of the stiff chevrons on their sleeves from shoulder to cuff. 

Some officers remind me of a cartoon suitcase with stickers from every country and state because they get a pin for every seminar they go to. I’m all for it. But for those among us who were not destined for glory, I have some suggestions for decorations that can adorn our proud upper torso. 

The ones with an asterisk are ones that I might, theoretically, have qualified for in the distant, distant past. 

ECD Purple Heart*: This features a bruise-colored background with black lightning attachment. It is given for those who have accidentally shocked themselves with an electronic control device. Add another black lightning pin if probes were involved. Add a third lightning bolt if the discharge was near an explosive fuel source. 

Flaming Foundation Ribbon*: This one features a charcoal black background with a red ember glowing in the center. It is for officers who arrive at the scene of a fire well ahead of the fire department and hear a television making them think there are people inside. In an effort to make contact with the non-existent residents, the officer continues to break windows, creating optimal conditions for rapid combustion. 

Possum Marksmanship Ribbon*: Given to an officer who discharges rounds to dispatch an injured or rabid animal with enough volume to generate “shots fired” calls from at least three frightened citizens. This is closely associated with the Gutshot Ribbon awarded to urban officers who attempt to kill an injured deer or cow by shooting them center mass. 

NASCAR Memorial Ribbon*: This is given to the officer who consistently wins the “Officer most likely to damage the new patrol car” and is the favorite in the department betting pool. The color is crinkled blue with sparkles representing broken glass. Optional sponsorship emblem available from grateful local body shop owner. 

Cognitive Dissonance Lifesaving Award*: Red splotched pattern on a white background, awarded to officers who provided lifesaving first aid to someone that they injured by shooting, or otherwise arresting with force, including running down with a vehicle. Gold stars awarded for saving the lives of child molesters and gang bangers. (I got mine vicariously by being run over by an officer under my command.)

Chaos in Motion Ribbon*: This is a cloud-shaped device devoted to officers who consistently muck up situations where multiple assets are on scene. This is for the officer who parks blocking the fire hydrant on a fire call and the porch on a med call, and draws fire by driving directly in front of a “shots fired” call. Each fouled-up operation is awarded a new cluster device, with a maximum of five clusters. This is called a flock. Supervisors may earn a number of cluster flocks. 

LOD Circle Slash Safety Ribbon*: This yellow ribbon with a bright red circle slash is awarded to officers who accidentally discharge a firearm inside an official police building or vehicle. The award may be delayed until all witnesses are retired, dead, or paid off. Second and third incidents earn an empty cartridge casing pin device. 

Civilian Failure Ribbon*: This simple pale blue ribbon embossed with the letter "F" is awarded to cops who thought they could leave police work and then decided that real work sucks. One star for each failed job attempted before realizing they aren’t qualified for anything else. 

Special Merit CYA Ribbon*: Flesh-colored background with dark sunglasses emblem is awarded for officers who damaged equipment but managed to have a friend with a tow truck finish fixing it before the shift was over and the boss found out. A dollar sign device may be added if out-of-pocket personal expenses exceeded one hundred dollars. 

Spanglish Manglish Ribbon*: This is a green, white, and red ribbon for officers who think they know enough Spanish to communicate their ferocity to a non-English speaking arrestee, resulting in disabling laughter or confusion and ultimate surrender of said suspect.

Pat Down Feel Up Ribbon*: Orange with a XXX pattern, this is awarded to any officer that has mistaken a body part for a weapon or contraband during a search. An extra “X” may be awarded if the discovery was accompanied by a loud “Aha! And what do we have here!”

Yes, it’s been quite a career. Oh yeah, I did help an elderly lady across the street once. Almost.


About the author

Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy.. He is retired as Chief of Police for Adams State University in Colorado. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.

Follow Joel on Twitter @ChiefShults.

Contact Joel Shults





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