June 25, 2013
Brimfield Police Chief Brings Small Town Americana To Facebook
The thing to remember about Facebook is that despite its high-tech leanings and culture-shifting tendencies, it’s still a community made of very real people. Some of these people live in small towns and have very little interest in the disruptive nature of social media. Some people just like knowing they can reach those closest to them and several thousand lookers-on simultaneously. So it goes for Police Chief David Oliver, the man behind the increasingly popular Brimfield Police Department Facebook page. Every morning Chief Oliver signs into the department’s Facebook account, gives a brief weather forecast for the day, details any calls his officers may be answering at the moment, then wishes happy birthday to celebrities and other people of interest.
“It’s 58 degrees outside of Mope Movers. We will reach the mid 70s today with some sunshine. Officers are on the scene of a one-car crash on Sandy Lake Road. It appears to be a domestic with a stolen car type incident….we will update you when we know,” reads a recent update on June 19. (Chief Oliver often borrows a phrase from the 70s TV show “Kojak” and refers to criminals as “Mopes.”)
Oliver then alerts locals of a black bear roaming the community, saying anyone who isn’t a female bear is likely safe if they keep their distance.
“Don’t try to make friends with him….just make some noise and he will move on. Don’t poke the bear…for real. If you are a female bear….yikes.”
It’s all very Mayberry and entirely endearing.
Beware the Bear
There are those, however, for whom a free-speaking officer of the law makes them wonder about the town’s due process. These people, while likely in the minority, are growing as the page becomes more and more popular every day. Following stories about his candid dealings in the AP, CNN and the LA Times, the Brimfield Police Department Facebook page has earned more than 69,000 likes and shows little sign of stopping soon.
In a world of black and white, the naysayers might be on to something. It must first be said that Chief Oliver (he proudly refers to himself as “Cheap Otter,” a name given to him by some local two-year olds) is not doing anything illegal. The Facebook posts are a matter of public record. In one post the chief claims his “Chief Rants” do not interfere with due process. When compared to the very public press statements made by law officials following murders and other violent crimes, Chief Oliver’s rants about leaving dogs inside hot cars or parking in handicapped spots to grab a quick burger seem tame, if not a little humorous.
“These posts are not an “official report”. That “official report” is very business liked and well-worded. It lists facts and not opinions. This page lists some facts and some opinions,” continues Chief Oliver.
The gray-ness of the world often muddies things and leaves room for Oliver’s daily posts, rants, and random musings.
The appointed police chief operates with just enough black and white to get away with it. After all, he’s only ranting and shaming those mopes who engage in activity many would say is either illegal or plain wrong. The aforementioned post about leaving a dog in a hot car, for instance, reads as much as a plea to protect animals as it does a plea to simply do the right thing and clear the phone lines at the station for real crimes.
Another post mentions the possible effectiveness of its very existence, detailing an incident the night before where an intoxicated female ran from Brimfield police only to be found safe in the mud moments later. Her primary concern? Being chastised on Facebook.
An even earlier post describes how officers were able to bust some people who had the ingredients to make meth in their car.
Would it be better if Chief Oliver didn’t use Facebook in this way?
That probably depends on who you ask. Those living outside of the small community outside Kent, Ohio (like Steven Lab, a professor of criminal justice and chairman of the Department of Human Services at Bowling Green State University who spoke with CNN) likely see Oliver’s posts as inappropriate and potentially dangerous to the community.
(Lab doesn’t use Facebook and has never read any of Oliver’s posts, by the way.)
Yet there are those who believe police work is less about catching criminals and pulling people over (this is no doubt important) and more about making locals feel safe in their community.
Chief Oliver’s posts, part newscast and part stand-up, bring a local flavor to Facebook and inform the community about not only the good, but the bad and where locals should be alert.
Reading the daily posts on the Brimfield Police Department Facebook page feels like having a morning cup of joe at the local greasy spoon (think Lawson or Stars Hollow) and overhearing the police chief briefly detail the events of the day to the waitress as he ritualistically orders his daily muffin.
“The one thing I hear, the constant message is, ‘You’re a real person. You’re just like us, except you’re a policeman,’” said Oliver in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“And that’s how it should be.”
Oliver’s most recent post?
He’s busy planning an annual parade called “Brimfest” which is scheduled mid-September. He notes that the chamber normally organizes it, dropping first names Dee and Nancy as if we’ve known them all along.
This year he wanted to recruit as many Vietnam vets as he could to be featured in the parade, but the idea “snowballed” and turned into an invitation to all vets, presently serving or no. With his newly found celebrity status, however, the parade could snowball even further.
“Oh…and it is more than 40,000 invitees, because of all of our new friends….now it’s almost 70,000. Good gravy.”
Any and all are invited to attend Brimfest, though Oliver suggests booking a hotel using the special keyword “Brimfield Police” or “Brimfield Police Facebook.”
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