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History of Department Awards

The issuing of department medals is a relatively new practice. In 1971, the Saint Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press issued medals. The medals were established to honor department personnel for jobs done above and beyond the call of duty. The medals were gold in color and consisted of a tie bar or a belt buckle.

In 1975, Chief Richard Rowan started the first medal program within the department. These medals are similar to what we have today. They were called: Class A, Class B, and Class C, with the Class A being the highest level medal in the department. There were tie bars and pins which the officer chose, based on their preference. The first medal awarded was a Class B medal given to Officer David Huberty for his actions of September 6, 1975.

In 1994, Chief Finney changed the names and the looks of the medals. His philosophy was if you put your life at risk for the sake of doing your job, it was considered to be an act of gallantry and valor and should be called as such. The medals are called: Medal of Valor, Medal of Merit, and Medal of Commendation. The Medals of Valor and Merit are actual medals. A bar is also given to be worn daily on the uniform, if the officer chooses. The Medal of Commendation is a bar.

Chief Finney also added two classes of medals for other situations. A Chiefs Award is given for exceptional actions or activities taken on behalf of the department and/or the city of Saint Paul. There are three levels of award: valor, merit, and commendation, differentiated by the color of ribbon attached to the medal. A Unit Citation is awarded to a unit for exceptional performance of their duty, above and beyond what would be expected from that unit.

In 1997, Chief Finney instituted the Officer of the Year Award as a department award. The first recipient of the award was Sgt. Thomas Dunaski. Previously, the honor was awarded by the Ranking Officer’s Association. In 1974. Officer Howard Skillings was the first recipient of the award given by the R.O.A.

There are letters of recognition given for intelligent and excellent performance of regular duties. This letter can be given to an individual or a unit.

The medals of today represent the good work that the men and women of the Saint Paul Police Department on a daily basis to protect and serve the community.

View the award recipients: