Ohio police chief takes criminals to task online with social media scoldings

By Kantele Franko

Associated Press

Published: Monday, June 17 2013 4:20 p.m. MDT

Occasionally, his rants cover topics far outside his jurisdiction, among them the Boston Marathon bombings and the high-profile rape case from Steubenville in eastern Ohio. He rarely mentions names but doesn't shy from addressing specific suspects or brands of criminals.

July 31, 2012: "Dear Father or Mother Meth Cooks,

"You have lost your mind. What in hell are you thinking when you make the decision to cook meth with your child in the house? You have violated the very basic principle of being a parent, which is the safety of your child. I am fed up with watching it and also with being concerned with the long-term effects of what you have exposed YOUR child to."

The word is out even among mopes, a few of whom have told Oliver they read his updates. During a March traffic stop with several drug-related arrests, one suspect overheard Oliver being called "Chief" and, after connecting the dots, requested not to be mentioned on the page, police said. Oliver didn't oblige.

His postings, also republished to the department's Twitter account, spur dozens or hundreds of comments from as far away as Australia or Germany. Some praise the department. Others say Oliver uses work time inappropriately for Facebook or criticize him for discussing suspects in a public forum. (His response: It's public record.)

Oliver welcomes the discussion and deletes comments only if they use profanity or refer to police in highly offensive language.

"He totally connects with our community, except the people that he arrests," said Mike Kostensky, one of the trustees who picked Oliver as chief in 2004.

Departments like Brimfield that engage readers and reply tend to see more activity on their police pages compared with those that don't, said Nancy Kolb, who runs the IACP Center for Social Media. The center tracks the popularity of law enforcement on Facebook and Twitter.

Oliver says his updates provide accountability and transparency about police work. He's also a believer that people can change.

He says that he had a "very thin" line between good and bad when he was younger and that he might have become a mope if not for grandparents who let him watch only "The Waltons," ''Gunsmoke" and "The Andy Griffith Show" on TV.

He said the latter was the biggest influence on his career because he admires the respectful, plain-spoken sheriff played by Griffith.

"I just always thought, you know, that's a good way to handle things," Oliver says.

Jan. 28, 2013: "It is the opinion of this chief, located in a small corner of a great big world, that we need to, as a society, become a little more intolerant of people who commit crimes for a living. When we start yelling about it being unacceptable ... people will take notice and the practice will shift; either by putting people in jail, funding drug treatment or behavioral changes by the criminals."

Oliver, a father of four who starts many days hugging and high-fiving elementary school students, turned his popularity into a sort of local brand, pitching mugs and T-shirts with "no mopes" logos and his other catchphrases — such as "anywhere but here" or, in reference to a jail breakfast, "enjoy the oatmeal" — to raise money for school security improvements. Purchases and donations have brought in more than $14,000, enough to install panic buttons connecting the five local schools to police. Cameras and intercoms are next.

"How could you not love that guy?" said Tammy Ralston, the graphic designer at Young's Screenprinting and Embroidery in Cuyahoga Falls, which came up with the "mopes" gear and receives orders from across the country.

Oliver's supporters include retiree Dennis Kerr of Sherwood, Ark., who bought a T-shirt for his wife while visiting family in nearby Stow.

"The guy really has a load of common sense, and I appreciated him, so we started following him," Kerr said.

Kerr hopes to meet Oliver and said he considered planning his next Ohio visit to coincide with Brimfield's parade. Oliver is turning the September event into a walk honoring military veterans and has invited all his Facebook fans.

Everyone, that is, except the mopes.

Follow Kantele Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10

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