Police department cancels use of military ribbons following Navy Cross recipient’s phone call

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A Navy Cross recipient’s call to a Florida police department led to a change in policy: Effective immediately, cops in Sanford will no longer wear Defense Department ribbons on their uniforms.

Capt. James McAuliffe with the police department in Sanford, Fla., told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday that they immediately suspended their current awards system and will no longer use Defense Department ribbons when honoring their police officers.

The change came as a result of a phone call made by Jeremiah Workman, a former Marine who earned the nation’s second highest valor award for heroics in Iraq. Workman was watching the trial of George Zimmerman, who has been accused of second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, on TV on Monday.

That’s when the former staff sergeant said he noticed a police officer from the department who testified was wearing Defense Department-issued ribbons she likely would not have rated during her reported three years in the Army. So he called the department that afternoon to ask why she was wearing them.

They told him they didn’t have their own ribbons, Workman said, so they picked DoD ribbons from the local Army-Navy store and repurposed them for department use.

Former Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Workman, right, stands alongside former Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent. Workman’s call to the police department in Sanford, Fla., about ribbons an officer was wearing during court testimony has led to them changing their awards policy. (Marine Corps)

“It certainly wasn’t meant to be offensive to anyone,” McAuliffe told Marine Corps Times. “It was a matter of convenience and obviously wasn’t well thought out. But it’s been rectified.”

When the department changed their awards system about 10 years ago, McAuliffe said there wasn’t a lot of access to police-specific awards. Since then, they’ve found places where they can purchase awards designed for police officers, and they’ll move in that direction.

Workman said the department told him on Monday that they selected ribbons like the World War II Army of Occupation Medal because because they knew there weren’t many veterans from that period alive so they didn’t think people would notice.

“At the end of his explanation I thought to myself, ‘So that makes it all better now because these guys are dead?’ ” Workman told Marine Corps Times after the call.

“I’m glad to see that they corrected the issue,” Workman said Wednesday. “But how many other departments around the country are doing this?”

James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police in Washington, D.C., said this was the first he had heard of local police departments using military ribbons for their own purpose. Pasco, a former Army sergeant, said some departments allow veterans to wear the military ribbons they earned while serving on their police uniforms.

Sanford police officer Doris Singleton testified Monday during George Zimmerman’s trial. A Marine and Navy Cross recipient watching the trial on TV called to ask her police department why she was wearing ribbons on her uniform she could not have earned, including one primarily reserved World War II veterans. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/POOL)

But this was the first time he had heard of Defense Department ribbons being re-designated for police officers, he said.

“I’ll see officers a lot of time wearing ribbons and I’ll look … at them and say, ‘Oh, he was there or he did that,’ ” Pasco said. “But apparently I can’t go by that anymore.”

Workman said he’s offering his services to assist police departments in coming up with their own awards system so they can stop relying on those earned by military personnel. Streamlining the awards for police officers would allow others across the country to recognize each other’s accomplishments, just like other troops can recognize the medals they earn, he added.

But Pasco said that the issue of awards for police officers is a tricky one because they answer to their state, county or local governments.

“Departments might say, ‘Well, there’s only one Marine Corps, but there are 4,000 police departments,’ ” Pasco said. “Marines set their own rules and so do police departments. That would be kind of the thinking in law enforcement – Marines are kind of a closed society and so are police departments.”

Nonetheless, Workman said spotting ribbons he found questionable just by catching some testimony on TV is good practice for the website he’s launching to call out military fakers. He said he has purchased the domain PhonyMarines.com and plans to out anyone claiming to have a valor award — Bronze Star with “V” or higher — that they didn’t earn.

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40 Comments

  1. The Marine who called to complain is my Brother, and he sure as hell earned his right to say something. Loser.

  2. “Stop”, or whoever you are… I’m betting your birth certificate has an apology from the condom factory printed on it. Pointing out that a police department is to stupid to realize the misuse of military awards is disrespectful, and to lazy to find actual police awards is far from complaining. The fact that the department so quickly ended the policy shows how right Jeremiah was in pointing this out.

    S/F

  3. If you’d ever done anything worth recognizing you’d understand why this is a problem, Stop. My guess is you’re really into airsoft and questionable pornography.

    Your mother should have swallowed that night.

    Well done, Jeremiah.

    SEMPER FIDELIS.

  4. A lot of nerve to call a decorated hero a “loser”. I’m willing to bet that “Stop” never served and if he/she did was probably dishonorably discharged. I say this because a real veteran wouldn’t be so immature for calling out a decorated hero for doing what was right. Semper Fi Jeremiah!

  5. I agree with both sides, but i don’t believe he should have been the one to call up personally. We have this thing called a Chain of Command. He should have let them do it on a federal level. But i understand both points of view.

  6. Anthony Lynam on

    Stop, your a friggin clown. The caller is a friend of mine and he is a recipient of the NAVY CROSS for valor.

  7. Thanks to Sgt. Workman for speaking out against this * terrible * practice.

    Our police forces should NEVER allow their officers to wear military awards/ribbons on a civilian uniform.

  8. Justin, why shouldn’t he have called? If you saw a sailor wearing medals that you know they did not earn, you’re telling everyone that you wouldn’t say anything and let that sailor misrepresent him/herself and disrespect the Navy traditions? Jeremiah Workman is not only a veteran, but above all he is a CITIZEN. Whether active duty or not, we all have the responsibility to correct what is wrong. Jeremiah did the right thing. He did not go out and seek publicity for this, but MilitaryTimes and now Marine Corps Times is publishing the story because it he took the time to correct a wrong.

  9. JarheadGeorgia on

    Thank you Jeremiah for pointing that out. There is no excuse for a Government entity to not do their homework on matters like this. Also for the police officer recipient of this award that cheapens his or her accomplishment, when the powers to be can’t find an artist or someone to create a one of a kind award that no one else wears. Maybe not stolen valor but come on these are cops, ignorance by the way is no excuse for anyone else in the justice system not for them either.

  10. Your not understanding what i am implying, i just don’t think he should have been the one to call. Yes point it out and take action towards it. But not to go on ahead and call them out on it personally. That’s all i’m saying. We have procedures put in place for a reason, the fact that he called means he SKIPPED the Chain of Command.

  11. Hey Justin, you’re a clown….Workman is out of the service and doesn’t answer to a chain of command…He’s an American Citizen and can do anything he fucking wants to you sheep….

  12. As a UK citizen with a good knowledge of medals, it’s just plain confusing to ‘re-use’ ribbons in this way. I can normally read off someone’s awards by looking at their ‘rack’ but this leaves me wondering what on earth is going on! Good to hear they will be restructuring their awards system…

  13. All of Law enforcement departments to include Corrections where military decorations that were not earned.I have personally spoke to the many of the Chiefs and the reason always given is that they are cheap and available and they are not changeing .

  14. GOOD JOB MARINE..” Stop ” you should use your name before you act. Justin use your chain of command and stop at your self. They were wrong and the excuse cause most WW2 vets are gone is a BS excuse. Were not any available years ago when they started giving them out is BS… get some JROTC or CAP ribbons . Semper Fi

  15. “Stop”, you are obviously a do nothing loser. I’m glad that Marine called. A cop wearing military ribbons they don’t rate is no different from any other civilian wearing military ribbons they don’t rate. Its DISRESPECTFUL! I truely hope the police department made an honest mistake and I’m glad they corrected it. Thank you for squaring away that police department Ssgt. Semper Fi Brother!

  16. Justin. He used a “chain of command”. He called the person he needed to at the police department. Intentional or not, you’d think a police department would have better judgement then that, and that they of all “civilians” would understand what those awards mean to the people who have EARNED them, and how wearing an award you do not rate is disrespectful and cheapens the award for the police officer wearing it.

  17. This has NOTHING to do with Stolen Valor and this officer was not wearing ribbons she did not rate. She was wearing ribbons that denoted some type of award from her department. Yes, they were re-purposed from the military but unless the military trademarks color schemes and designs on cloth, there is no violation here. She’s not wearing military awards, she’s wearing her departments awards. This a a big to do about absolutely nothing.

  18. As a police officer and former US Marine, I am appalled to see or learn of any law enforcement agency doing such a dishonorable act. The International Association of Chiefs of Police [IACP] has their own awards/ribbons system, which I am certain the National Sheriff’s Association [NSA] recognizes as well. My agency has used the very same awards system for over 20-years and I have traveled all over the US as a police officer, seeing the very same awards being worn by my brothers and sisters in uniform, and knowing what each of them stood for. Why would our present and former military Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Marines feel this practice was okay and not have the intestinal fortitude to speak up in years past? I cannot answer this. However; I respect the Sanford PD for stopping this practice when called out on it.

    I salute you J. Workman for your service and gallantry. Semper Fi Marine!

  19. “18 USC § 704 – Military medals or decorations

    (a) In General.— Whoever knowingly purchases, attempts to purchase, solicits for purchase, mails, ships, imports, exports, produces blank certificates of receipt for, manufactures, sells, attempts to sell, advertises for sale, trades, barters, or exchanges for anything of value any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the armed forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof, except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”

    Purchase of military ribbons for use by police departments isn’t just a “mistake”. I believe it is a violation of Federal law.

  20. CPT GA Wagoner on

    I am a retired combat veteran (Vietnam) and my father is a WWII Veteran (ETO) this Violation of the use of Military medals and decorations is an insult to All Veterans – no matter if they are living or dead – especially if they died in battle. Military decorations are awarded to MILITARY and Yes it is a crime for them to be worn by non- military persons – intentional or unintentional this PD broke the law. SF.

  21. I don’t really think it was fraud on the Officer’s part, maybe some of you guys freaking out need to actually read the story. Just as many if not more police officers die every year in the line of duty as do Soldiers do deployed, they sacrifice, they get injured, they work long hours for little compensation. She probably earned those ribbons honorably, you can’t fault her because that was her departments police, like she is a ribbon expert or something. They should change their policy, but the officers shouldn’t be called frauds bc of it.

  22. I just looked it up, 120 Police Officers were killed violently in the line of duty in 2012. Compared to 246 KIA from all services in Afghanistan. That is nearly half, you gotta give them a little credit.

  23. MCPO Harris on

    I agree with CPT Wagoner, and find it disgusting that some lazy pencil-pusher chose military ribbons/medals to use as “decorations” for their officers’ heroism and sacrifice. I can just hear the ribbon selection committee exclaiming, “Oh, here’s a pretty color scheme!”

  24. I think we all know the truth about what is going on here by this person attacking the Sanford PD,and from myself coming from a traditional Marine family it is sad to see political correctness infesting the Corps.

  25. Political correctness is fluishing this country down the toilet. And yes, the libs have their hands on the flusher.

  26. FYI, the Stolen Valor Act was held unconstitutional a year ago.

    Police departments “repurposing” lesser used ribbons was a poor choice I would bet made by a non-veteran. Strange that people try to claim they used to be SEALs when such a claim is so hard to stand up to challenge: only a couple hundred people earn that title each year. I wish Mr. Workman the best of luck with his website. Semper Fi.

    -M.S. (USMCR 1989-1994)

  27. Take it national on

    This is ONE department that stopped–perhaps SSgt Workman can make sure this gets congressional “clarification.” “repurpose” of a military should NOT be allowed. Unfortunately, this is NOT the only PD doing this: the fact they finally stopped indicates that IF the right person calls, this will stop. Rather than have SSgt Workman call every single entity following this practice, CONGRESS can make it CLEAR that is not allowed. Again, I know of several organizations in the Chicago Area (SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA) that do this. BTW, the decision to “repurpose” the military awards was done BY A RETIRED NAVY Chief. It needs to stop…The POLICE Department, fire Department, etc DESERVE THEIR awards, but this does not mean they should be allowed to take ours

  28. “Every Marine at every level shall ensure compliance with appropriate orders”. It’s a MCO established many years ago that I used to preach to my Marines. When you see something wrong, especially wear of the uniform, you DO NOT need to use the chain of command. Even a PFC can AND IS EXPECTED to make corrections if warranted (i.e. he can correct a LtCol if the officer is out of uniform). Our opinion actually don’t matter, this is Marine Corps Policy, whether anyone likes it or not. Great job on this motivator for immediately taking action to rectify an issue seeing someone wearing military awards, regardless of who is or isn’t at fault. The majority of veterans will view her, and folks like her, and typically believe she’s earned awards for actions in theaters she was never 1000 miles near. The simple solution is wear anything else BUT military awards. Otherwise, we’ll soon cops wearing medals of honor because they look pretty on their uniforms.

  29. SSgt Workman: the Corps taught you well and you demonstrated it in many ways. Stop… I’ll be gentler than the others and just remind you that life is hard, but it’s harder when you’re stupid. Justin, you should have quit while your ahead a long time ago. Big Sarge, brother, I’m both a retired Marine and former inner-city cop with trigger time of my own. I agree with Juan, if you want to honor the fallen, then do it right and do it because it’s right. That’s the most respectful way to honor the fallen and the living brave. Taking the lazy route and making excuses cheapens the entire effort. I worked in Atlanta and I’ll tell you that with all the interaction you have on the street, ribbons would not last a single watch. Real police don’t need ribbons, their behavior and actions, like a Marine, speak for themselves. By the way… to Take it National; you suggest congressional clarification. Are you kidding me?? Congress can’t clarify ANYTHING except that their attacking our hard earned benefits, and doing jack to take care of our young and broken Warriors!

  30. Bernard Wilson on

    I’m a retired police chief. I call “BS” on other ribbons not being available. Going back to the 1960’s and earlier, generic ribbons were available to ROTC units, military schools, police departments and National Guard. “Re-purposing” military ribbons is simply the inexpensive and lazy solution. My department selected from the charts, carefully avoiding military and our state’s National Guard ribbons. The only military ribbons allowed were ones our people had earned, as documented on DD214 and other military documents.

  31. 18 U.S.C. §704 prohibits, and

    imposes a suitable penalty for the unauthorized wear,

    manufacture, or sale of any decoration, medal, or ribbon which

    has been or may be authorized by the Armed Forces of the United

    States, except under regulations made under law.

  32. ItsMichaelNotMike on

    I am a combat vet, have a few medals, awards and citations (only three rows). Mine are in a box somewhere.

    Personally, I was disappointed when the SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional the Stolen Valor Act (recall that POS govt. official in Los Angeles. I think he was wearing a Medal of Honor). But the law is the law, we have to live with it.

    That said, this does not all mean that POLICE DEPARTMENTS should be buying ribbons off eBay, so to speak, and issuing them to officers. That’s kind of childish, IMO.

    Sidenote: Notice that another SPD officer testified at the Zimmerman trial. He had a full chest of ribbons too. But his awards are the real thing since he testified he was a Marine. (I think I can make out the Combat Action Ribbon.)

    Take a look at him. YOU go tell him he can’t wear those. :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gayag96w7kA

    Bonus Comment: The Zimmerman trial was interesting in that there were a lot of current and former military testifying. E.g.,

    Current Army Capt. in JAG

    Vietnam Army Medic who was in the front lines of the Tet Offensive.

    Zimmerman’s father – A former Army officer, I believe.

    Jorge Meza (Zimmerman’s uncle), Army (ret.) Command Sergeant Major.

    SPD Sergeant Raimondo – USMC (He appears to be wearing his entire USMC awards, citations, and badges.)

  33. Pingback: Battle Rattle » Six Flags park in Illinois cancels use of military ribbons for security guards’ uniforms

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