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Phoenix mayor supports investigation of possible hate speech on police commemorative coin

Challenge coin
Posted at 9:18 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 12:53:01-05

PHOENIX — Phoenix’s mayor is supporting the call for an outside investigation into whether Phoenix officers made a challenge coin containing hate speech.

Challenge coins are medallions often used by police and military groups to commemorate an achievement or build morale.

The controversial coin was created after protests of then-President Donald Trump's visit to Phoenix in August 2017. Anti-Trump protesters clashed with police downtown. An officer hit protester Josh Cobin in the groin with a non-lethal projectile.

A drawing of Cobin doubled over in pain is depicted on one side of the challenge coin, along with the inscription "Good Night Left Nut." The phrase is very similar to "Good Night Left Side" a slogan used by neo-fascist hate groups to promote violence.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams knew about the coin more than a year ago, but no officers were punished. Documents about officers’ creation and distribution of the coin never mentioned the possible link to neo-Nazi culture.

ABC15 showed the coin in an investigative report Friday night, and viewers responded on social media identifying “Good Night Left Nut” as possible hate speech.

On Saturday, Chief Williams and Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher called for an outside investigation into the coin.

"I fully support City Manager Zuercher's decision to launch an outside investigation,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said In a statement Sunday. “The behavior described is unacceptable."

Councilman Sal DiCiccio took issue with how Police Chief William is handling this latest scandal. He said Williams did not express general confidence in her officers or support for her department in her statement about the coin investigation on Saturday.

“I really think it’s just offensive the way this thing was written,” DiCiccio said. “The department, itself, has now got this blanket over it that makes it look like they’re some type of racists when, in fact, that they’re not.”

The other seven council members did not respond to requests for comment.

This hate speech investigation comes less than two years after Chief Williams investigated 72 Phoenix officers for their social media posts.

Those posts, exposed by the Plain View Project, seemed to glorify violence, promoted racism or included culturally intolerant language.

One officer was fired, and three others were suspended. Sixty more officers received coaching.

It's unclear how many officers could be implicated in the new challenge coin investigation and how the probe could impact several high-profile protester prosecutions happening now.

This story originally reported by Melissa Blasius and David Biscobing on ABC15.com.