Pigs on police cars? Prank by Vermont inmates adorns decals
11:52 PM, Feb. 2, 2012 | The Vermont State Police seal, created by a print shop run by inmates at the state prison in St. Albans, altered the state seal to include the likeness of a pig, seen in yellow, on the cow's shoulder. Decals of the seal are on most state police cruisers. / MIKE DONOGHUE, Free Press
Movement afoot to preserve Vermont State Police pig decal
© Copyright 2012 Burlington Free Press
MONTPELIER — How did an image of a pig — the infamous ’60s-era epithet by protesters for police officers — wind up on a decal used on as many as 30 Vermont State Police cruisers?
State officials Thursday pointed to the failure of the quality assurance office within the Vermont Correctional Industries Print Shop in St. Albans to detect a prisoner-artist’s addition made four years ago to the traditional state police logo. A spot on the shoulder of the cow in the state emblem was modified into a pig.
An investigation has begun into how the computer program was improperly modified to insert the image, Vermont Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito said.
Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn told the Burlington Free Press Thursday that he became aware of the alteration earlier in the day and has asked Pallito for an explanation.
The story about the pig on the state police emblem was first reported in a copyrighted story on the Burlington Free Press website Thursday afternoon.
State officials attempted to strike a balance between concern over the situation and acknowledgement of the humor involved.
State Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Windsor, said he expects people to study the state police cruisers more carefully now.
“It’s going to be ‘Where’s Porky?’ instead of ‘Where’s Waldo?’” said Campbell, who was a police officer in Florida before he became a lawyer.
Major William Sheets, executive officer for the Vermont State Police, said he expects his department also will be more vigilant to inspect ordered items when they arrive.
“It is fair to say the quality control will be improved at the Corrections Department and at the Vermont State Police,” Sheets said.
Pallito said initial indications are that a computer program at the Northwest State Correctional Facility was modified in 2008. In 2009, an order for the 16-inch decals was sent to state police.
He said the corrections employee, who was not named, inspects print work before it leaves the St. Albans prison. He said the person accepting delivery for state police also failed to detect the change.
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It was unclear how long some of the pig decals have been in use, state police said. They believe about 30 cruisers are involved. Some new cruisers have two defective decals, while older cruisers might have only one if a door had been damaged and replaced.
Lt. Paul White, station commander in Middlesex, said Thursday there are at least three cruisers with at least one of the modified decals on cruisers at his barracks. He said the full inventory hadn’t been made.
State out $780
While some people might find humor in the news story, Sheets and Pallito said, it comes at the expense of Vermont taxpayers.
Pallito said each decal costs $13. He believes 60 defective decals were manufactured.
The $780 printing job will come out of the small profits Prison Industries receives while making license plates, stationery for state offices and wood products for state offices and schools, Pallito said.
He said inmates in the prison industries division who want new computers and better tools to do their jobs will have to wait longer while the state police are reimbursed.
Pallito said an order for 100 new decals has been placed and should be ready as soon as Monday. The computer program will be studied and the final product thoroughly reviewed before the new decals are sent to state police, he said.
State police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said the department would incur additional fuel expense. She said each impacted cruiser from headquarters and the 12 stations throughout Vermont will have to be brought to Colchester, where the state police fleet mechanics will install the correct decals.
The plan is to destroy any remaining modified decals, state police said.
State Police Sgt. Michael Roj, a traffic safety supervisor in Southern Vermont, is credited with the eagle eye. He alerted the fleet management garage.
Pallito said the inmates also produce 4-, 14- and 20-inch decals. Dasaro said the department will undergo a review to ensure those have not been modified.
Pallito said it could take a few weeks for the investigation into which inmate or inmates were behind the unapproved modification of the design and printing.
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He said it is possible the inmate is no longer in custody. If he is, he could face internal discipline for misuse of state property.
“I don’t know if there is a criminal charge,” Pallito said.
Attempts to reach Gov. Peter Shumlin for comment were unsuccessful.
“This is not as offensive as it would have been years ago. We can see the humor,” said Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, a former state trooper and state prosecutor who was named commissioner a year ago. “If the person had used some of that creativeness, he or she would not have ended up inside.”
“We used to play in the Pig Bowl,” said Campbell, the Senate leader. “It was the state versus the county and municipal police. While it was derogatory in the ’60s, we used it as a fundraisers for charities.”
He said that while some people might still use the derogatory term, “I believe a majority of us have great respect for police.”
Contact Mike Donoghue at 660-1845 or [email protected]