The claim: Prison inmates added a pig to the official logo of the Vermont State Police
How far would you go for a practical joke? One social media post claims that in Vermont, prison inmates went as far as altering the official emblem of the state police – and got away with it for years.
"In 2008 Vermont prison inmates who were being used for prison labor had the last laugh when they edited the design of the Vermont State Police logo to hide a pig in the image," reads a graphic shared in an Oct. 21 Instagram post.
The graphic goes on to claim "60 crests were altered and 30 cop cars" drove around Vermont unaware for four years before the alteration was noticed. An investigation into the incident was launched but no inmates were "identified or punished for the harmless act," the graphic concludes.
The post amassed over 5,000 interactions on Instagram in a week, according to CrowdTangle, a social media analytics tool.
The story may sound far-fetched, but it's actually true, Vermont State Police spokesperson Adam Silverman confirmed in an email to USA TODAY. The alteration affected police car decals depicting the crest.
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram poster for comment.
Police crest changed by unknown prison inmate
The altered official crest was noticed by a state trooper on a police vehicle in February 2012, Reuters reported.
Instead of the usual red cow against a backdrop of snowy mountains, the cow was spotted, and one spot resembled a pig – an apparent reference to the pejorative word for police, state police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro told Reuters.
The alteration appeared limited to decals decorating police vehicles, and 30 cruisers were noted sporting the doctored design.
As the Instagram post asserts, an investigation was launched and traced back to a print shop in a Vermont women's correctional facility. Prisoners there are employed by the state to make stationery, license plates and police cruiser decals, both Reuters and the Los Angeles Times reported.
Police were unable to identify the culprit behind the alteration since several inmates working the print shop had access to the official crest.
"At this point all we can tell is how many women had access to the file, and who they were," Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito said to CBS affiliate WCAX in 2012. "Really being able to tell who manipulated the file last is virtually impossible without somebody stepping forward and saying, 'I did it.'"
Silverman said it's unclear how long these decals were on vehicles before they were discovered.
"I believe it was at least a year (before 2012), but I’m not sure how much before that," he said.
The post is also correct on the number of decals depicting the retouched crest. Pallito told the Hartford Courant in 2012 around 60 decals were made in the couple years prior to discovering the alteration.
Our rating: True
Based on our research, we rate TRUE the claim prison inmates added a pig to the official logo of the Vermont State Police. The alteration was noted in police car decals in 2012 and was traced back to a prison print shop. No culprits were identified or charged.
Our fact-check sources:
Adam Silverman, Oct. 28, email exchange with USA TODAY
Reuters, Feb. 2, 2012, Vermont inmates hide pig in official police car decal
Los Angeles Times, Feb. 3, 2012, Vermont police find, belatedly, that inmates put pig on car decal
Reuters, Feb. 16, 2012, Vermont fails to find culprit in embarrassing pig caper
WCAX via the WayBack Machine, Feb. 16, 2012, Police close case on altered Vt State police decals
NBC5, Feb. 3, 2012, Pig Prank Riles Vt. State Police
Hartford Courant, Feb. 2, 2012, Inmate adds pig image to Vt. police cruiser decals
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Pig photoshopped into a Vermont state police car decal