Ohio police chief takes criminals to task online with social media scoldings
Tony Dejak, Associated Press
KENT, Ohio — If you're up to no good in this pocket of northeast Ohio, especially in a witless way, you're risking not only jail time or a fine but a swifter repercussion with a much larger audience: You're in for a social media scolding from police Chief David Oliver and some of his small department's 52,000-plus Facebook fans.
And Oliver does not mince words.
In postings interspersed with community messages and rants, the Brimfield Township chief takes to task criminals and other ne'er-do-wells — his preferred term is "mopes," appropriated from police TV shows and an old colleague who used it — for the stupid, the lazy and the outright unlawful. Even an ill-considered parking choice can spur a Facebook flogging.
"If you use a handicapped space and you jump out of the vehicle, all healthy-like, as if someone is dangling free cheeseburgers on a stick, expect people to stare at you and get angry," Oliver wrote last year. "You are milking the system and it aggravates those of us who play by the rules. Ignoring us does not make you invisible. We see you, loser."
His humor, sarcasm and blunt opinion fueled a tenfold increase in the Facebook page's likes in the past year, bringing the total to about five times the 10,300 residents the department serves. It's among the most-liked local law enforcement pages in the country, trailing only New York, Boston and Philadelphia police, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media.
Not bad for a guy who initially hoped maybe 500 locals would pay attention when he noticed other businesses' pages and decided to start his own three years ago.
Facebook posting, May 16, 2013: "I call criminals mopes. I do not comment on them being ugly, smelly or otherwise beauty impaired ... even though some are. I do not comment on their education, social status, color, sex, origin or who they marry. I care about crime and character. If you come to Brimfield and commit a crime we are all going to talk about it. The easiest way to not be called a criminal is to not be one. It is not calculus."
The chief loves justice, Westerns and dogs. John Wayne and Abraham Lincoln peer out from frames on the gray walls of Oliver's office, where the 45-year-old chats with anyone who stops by.
His Facebook messages extend that open-door policy online for conversations about road closures, charity events, lost pets and whatever else crosses his mind. Some are serious, such as salutes to slain officers and updates during school threat investigations. Others are light-hearted, like the attempt to find an escaped swine's owner with an unusual APB — an "All-Pig Bulletin" — or his promise to "ticket" child bicyclists with coupons for free ice cream if they wear helmets.
And, of course, there's crime. One posting berates a man accused of physically assaulting a woman and two children. In another, Oliver suggests that hiding near an occupied police K-9 vehicle wasn't a shoplifting suspect's smartest move.
Resident Mark Mosley, a daily reader, said he likes such "humorous arrest stories" best.
"It's one of those things, like you can't fix stupid," Mosley said.
His officers and others say the online character of the chief, a big, beefy guy, matches real life.
"He is definitely a very large personality. It kind of goes with his size," local fire Chief Robert Keller said.
Oliver's 15-person department handles more than 13,000 calls for service annually and deals largely with arrests for driving violations, thefts and drug crimes by out-of-towners. Arrests in those crime categories dropped last year but are trending upward again, and Oliver says it would take more time to determine whether the Facebook messages are having an impact.
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