KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A commemorative coin that was designed to honor the Kansas City Police Department’s vice unit is being widely criticized.
The coin, which was to feature an image of a 1970s-era pimp with a biracial complexion on one side and a handcuffed brown-skinned woman in a sexually suggestive pose on the other side, was never produced, but it was advertised in the department’s newsletter in January.
Mayor Quinton Lucas said on Thursday that he had seen a rendering of the coin, which hasn’t been released publicly, and he told department leaders he was displeased.
“I thought it was repugnant at the time and shared that sentiment as soon as I learned about it with department leadership,” Lucas said.
Shortly after the coin was advertised, Police Chief Rick Smith told the Board of Police Commissioners he found the image offensive and had launched an investigation into how it had been approved, according to an image of the email obtained by The Kansas City Star.
“On a personal note, I truly apologize to anyone that was offended,” Smith wrote. “I can tell you that I am too offended. This should never have happened. A Vice detective who sanctions this type of image should be closely scrutinized for his or her position in that unit.”
Community activists said the coin’s design raised questions about the culture inside the department.
“This is yet another disturbing example of the severity of systemic racism inside the KCPD,” said Gwen Grant, president/CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “The very fact that such a coin could be designed and promoted among the rank and file is unconscionable.”
Police department spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina said the department had changed how it managed the production of such coins.
“Command staff determined the coin should not be approved for production,” Becchina said in an email to The Star. “If an individual wants to produce a challenge coin depicting some aspect of the department or unit, that has to be approved by that respective chain of command.”
Police officials declined to say whether anyone was being disciplined related to the coin’s design.