I used to eat lunch with two female police officers who enjoyed wearing t-shirts depicting pigs. “Every officer should have a pig t-shirt,” Major Mary Mariani would say, grinning.

Mary did not—ever—exhibit any of the behaviors that “pigs” were notorious for back in the 1960s. During our pizza outings I often saw citizens come up to her with questions and problems. Invariably they were treated courteously and given useful information. It was obvious that she was widely respected in our community

What impressed me most was her honesty. For several years she served as her agency’s public relations officer. One time a cruiser video showed that an officer had used excessive force during a traffic stop.  Mary did not offer excuses for him.  I’d sometimes seen other agencies take an “our-officers-can-do-no-wrong” approach to the media, and I complimented Mary on her integrity. She just shrugged. “We don’t do that,” was her comment.

Officers like Mary are everywhere, quietly and competently protecting public safety, but the “pig” epithet lives on. Whether you’re offended or amused depends on your point of view.

Police officers in Vermont aren’t amused by the “pig” accusation—not some of them, anyway. Last week a police employee noticed that the state police crest emblazoned on police cars displays a small pig. Apparently an inmate in a correctional institution that produces the decals had hacked the software. (You can see the pig-shaped cow spot near the cow’s head).

The decal will have to be removed from about 60 cars at a cost of $780, paid for from correctional funds. The pig has apparently been taking a free ride on police cruisers for four years.

Reactions vary. State police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said that the decal “dishonors the memory of those past and present members, especially for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”

But Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn sees humor in what happened. “This is not as offensive as it would have been years ago,” he said. “We can see the humor.” He added that the perpetrator could have
used some of that creativity to avoid going to prison in the first place.

Pig or public servant? I’m thinking about the officer who changed my flat tire for me during a rainstorm a few years ago. I wonder if he owns a pig t-shirt. One thing I know for certain is that no one could ever call him—or thousands of others like him—a pig.

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Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including PoliceTalk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Guide toReport Writing for Officers.