Experts discuss ‘horrible’ Phoenix police challenge coin
PHOENIX — A controversial challenge coin owned, shared, and sold by Phoenix officers raises serious concerns about the culture inside the city’s police department and a lack of accountability by top leaders, according to a handful of experts interviewed by ABC15.
The coins commemorate the moment when a protester was shot in the groin by a pepper ball in August 2017.
In addition to celebrating violence against a protester, the coin’s language mimics hate speech, which prompted the city to hire an outside law firm to investigate.
ABC15 also discovered Phoenix police leaders, including Chief Jeri Williams, were informed about the coin multiple times in recent years. But no officers were officially investigated or disciplined.
The law firm, Ballard Spahr, is tasked with investigating “the origin of and subsequent circulation and knowledge of challenge coins by Phoenix Police Department,” according to a contract obtained by ABC15.
ABC15 interviewed the following experts on policing and extremism:
- Mike German: A fellow at the Brennan Center at NYU, and a retired FBI special agent who spent time undercover with right-win extremists.
- Heather Taylor: A retired St. Louis Police Department homicide supervisor, who now helps run the Ethical Society of Police. Taylor testified before Congress about policing and far-right extremism in 2020.
- Carolyn Gallaher: A professor at American University, who researches right-wing extremism in the United States.
- Vida Johnson: Associate Professor at Georgetown Law and a former federal public defender. Johnson testified before Congress about policing and far-right extremism in 2020.
A regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, Tammy Gillies, also spoke with ABC15 and sent a statement regarding the coins.
ABC15 has confirmed at least six members of the Phoenix Police Department who owned the coin. Although, there are likely to be many others inside the department. It’s not clear how much input Phoenix officers had with the development of the coins. However, in a lawsuit deposition, one officer said he believed Phoenix officers facilitated production of the coins.
The following are excerpts from expert interviews and other facts related to key issues surrounding the challenge coins.
TIES TO HATE SPEECH
The front of the coin reads, “Good Night Left Nut.”
The phrase is derived from hate speech used on both the far right and far left. It began as the anti-racist slogan, “Good Night Right Side.” It was then inverted by far-right groups, including some white supremacists, as “Good Night Left Side.”
The term and imagery of “Good Night Left Side” is classified as a hate symbol, according to the Anti-Defamation League. “’Anti-Antifa’ images are white supremacist symbols and memes directed against antifa activists,” according to the ADL’s website.
A violent white…