|Mike Donoghue/Burlington Free Press|
|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|
In the feel-good story of the day, an image of a pig — the infamous 1960s-era epithet used by protesters and hippies for police officers — has wound up on a decal used on as many as 30 Vermont State Police cruisers.
Embarrassed state officials on Thursday blamed a failure of the quality assurance office within the Vermont Correctional Industries Print Shop in St. Albans, Vt., to detect a prisoner-artist’s addition made four years ago to the traditional state police logo, reports Mike Donoghue of the Burlington Free Press. In an ingenious bit of subtle social protest, a spot on the shoulder of the cow in the state emblem was modified into a pig.
A witch hunt, I mean an investigation has been launched into how the computer program was “improperly modified” to insert the image of the pig, according to Vermont Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito.
Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn told the Free Press on Thursday that he became aware of the unauthorized alteration earlier in the day and has asked Pallito for an “explanation.”
The story of the pig on the state police emblem was first reported in a copyrighted story on the Burliington Free Press website Thursday afternoon.
“It’s going to be ‘Where’s Porky?’ instead of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ ” said State Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell (D-Windsor), who was a police officer in Florida before he became a lawyer.
Campbell said he expects people to study the state police cruisers more closely now.
Major William Sheets, executive officer for the Vermont State Police, didn’t seem to see quite as much humor in the situation.
“It is fair to say the quality control will be improved at the Corrections Department and at the Vermont State Police,” Sheets stiffly said.
Pallito said it appears 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 a corrections employee — who has remained unnamed — inspects print work before it leaves the St. Albans prison. The person accepting delivery for the state police also failed to detect the change.
It’s unclear how long some of the pig police decals have been in use, according to state police. They believe about 30 cruisers are involved. Some new cruisers have two pig decals, while some older vehicles might have only one if a door had been damaged and replaced.
Sheets and Pallito complained that the porcine prank comes at the expense of Vermont taxpayers. (Hell, if I were a Vermont taxpayer, I’d be delighted to pay for all the police pig decals they could print — as long as they went on official police cruisers.)
According to Pallito, about 60 defective decals were manufactured at a cost of $13 apiece. The $780 printing job will come out of the already meager profits Prison Industries receives while making license plates, stationery for state offices and wood products for state offices and schools, Pallito said.
The plan is to destroy any remaining modified pig decals, state police said.
Pallito said it could take “a few weeks” for the investigation into exactly which inmate or inmates were behind the unauthorized design modification.
(Toke of the Town thanks reader Lynn Appleby for bringing our attention to this story.)