Brimfield police Chief David Oliver is an Internet sensation.
He begins each day at his computer — creating Facebook messages that are both insightful and remarkably witty. They generally start with the temperature “from outside the navy blue palace, the Center for Mope Studies or the bat cave.”
His staff, 15 strong, tease their boss about his newfound popularity, but he’s good natured enough to return the jabs.
The notoriety all started innocently enough. A Facebook page was contrived three years ago because Oliver saw it as a way to keep in touch with the community. To tell Brimfield residents which streets to avoid because of an accident or icy conditions.
“We still do that, but we just have ... people who don’t live in Brimfield who pay attention to it,” the 45-year-old said in what just might be the understatement of the cyber world.
For those who don’t know, Facebook is a popular social media site. When a member sees a site they enjoy, they can decide to “like” it. Updates are then posted from that organization on the member’s personal page.
The Brimfield police page has more than 43,000 “likes” and is rapidly rising. A year ago, the page had roughly 3,500. To put it all in perspective, the Akron police, Cleveland police and the Beacon Journal combined have less than Brimfield’s current “likes.” Heck, the police department in Brimfield, with around 10,400 residents, has more people watching it on the Internet than the Chicago Police Department.
The small Portage County department is only behind police departments in major cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia in the number of Facebook fans.
“Personally, I can’t believe that it’s happened,” said Brimfield Township trustee Chick Sprague, 76, and one of the chief’s bosses. “Being an older person, I’m really not a Facebook person. I think it has probably helped the community as a whole — especially the younger people.”
Oliver is a hands-on chief. In addition to leading his department, he directs traffic and works closely with the schools. High-fives from the grinning chief are something that youngsters have come to expect.
Those who comment on Oliver’s Facebook messages say it’s his straight talk, rants and his storytelling that keep them coming back.
“Gather around gang, Uncle Chief is declaring story time,” Oliver wrote on Facebook in early May.
“Once upon a time there was a thief. He was a big fella, with lots of artwork affixed to his body. The artwork was of devils and naked ladies and such. Nice artwork; menacing fella. His background included escapes from law officers, being armed and dangerous and sometimes socking a police officer. Oh, and lots of incidents of taking things which do not belong to him. So many of those, in fact, that two other counties have active warrants for his arrest. Yes, boys and girls, he is in the mope stage of his life.
“On this day, the thief decided to work his job in the Field of Brim, known in modern days as Brimfield. What he failed to recognize is the well known phenomenon of ‘The Brimfield Triangle.’
“This non-scientifically researched hypothesis tells us that criminals have been coming to Brimfield for years and disappearing — only to turn up later, unharmed, in another part of the county — in the bed and breakfast (also known as jail). Yikes!”
So popular is the Facebook site that when two of Brimfield’s finest were flying back to Ohio from New Mexico, a man two rows up overheard Sgt. David Knarr say he worked for the police department.
“Brimfield Police?” the man said, turning in his seat. “I follow you guys on Facebook.”
During a recent seven-day period, the Facebook page was viewed nearly a million times, including 316 times by those living in New Zealand.
In addition to lambasting mopes, which the chief describes as those who leech off of society, and ranting about societal ills, the chief generously compliments his officers.
Facebook posts about his staff and those who serve in the military are, Oliver offered, his favorite to write.
“It’s nice to see your name on there. And the community always rallies about whatever is going on. He likes to give you ‘attaboys,’ ” said Brimfield Detective Brandon Lance.
Oliver said the men are deserving of every ounce of appreciation they receive from him.
“They deserve more. What they deserve is me complimenting them eight hours a day,” he said, leaning across his desk to make a point. “The secret to leadership is surrounding yourself with good people and then staying out of their way.”
In one of his recent humorous Facebook messages, the chief, who likes things like cowboy shows and John Wayne, wrote, “Officer Paul Gramlich wins the box set of Slim Whitman CD’s for having the most arrests in April. He made 17 physical arrests.
“Handcuff companies all over the United States are putting people on overtime to provide Officer Gramlich with handcuffs… Outstanding job to all of my officers and staff for their continued dedication to our mission — catching bad guys…”
Books, Browns and Bible
Oliver is a self-professed book geek. Perhaps that is why his writing is extraordinary.
“The best present my kids ever got me was my Kindle Fire,” he said. “I love anything history, but I’ll read the phone book if there’s nothing else there.”
He’s read a three-book series about Roman civilization.
“And a great book on the Latin language and how Latin has influenced other language,” he offered, a comment greeted by a yawn from a reporter.
“I know. My wife asks, ‘Why are you reading that?’ But two weeks later I might be reading a Walt Longmire mystery.”
Among the items on his desk are an imitation Cleveland Browns helmet and a Bible.
“When I was a kid and didn’t know any better, I was a Steelers fan,” he said, laughing. “About the Bible — I don’t offer information unless someone asks, but I believe in God and a lot of what I believe drives me.”
Not long ago, Oliver spoke to a class of college students about his job and the Facebook page. One of the young men in the class mentioned that there were police who got into trouble for drinking and driving, domestic abuse and other issues.
“That will never be me,” he told the student. “It’s not me and it’s not my guys. I’ll tell you this — if you ever read about me on the front page of the paper it’s going to be because of something I said, not because of something I did.
“But I don’t say it to hurt people’s feeling. I say it because it’s my opinion. And I clearly tag everything — ‘this is my opinion. It may not be the opinion of the people who sign my checks.’ ”
It’s been Oliver’s view since he became a cop that somebody needed to talk about what law enforcement officers deal with on a daily basis. And providing a little lesson with the straight talk isn’t a bad thing.
For instance, the chief wrote this Facebook post after a handful of local students were seen in video clips on a social media app smoking pot. A 16-year-old Field High School student was arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana.
“I believe this to be an isolated pocket of kids making bad decisions. I also believe these decisions are influenced by modern culture; our tolerance of some drugs; and from lack of parental supervision. If you are a parent and that makes you angry…tough. Your child reaching the age of wiping his own rear end and making his own dinner does not absolve you from providing guidance and discipline. Be a parent, not a BFF [best friend forever]. End of speech.”
The chief also shows compassion in his Facebook posts for those who suffer from things like drug addiction, but he’s quick to note that if their illnesses result in harm to others, they have crossed a line into mopedom.
“You’ve got to follow the rules, but he’s friendly and outgoing to people,” said trustee Sprague. “He’s been good for the community.”
Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or email@example.com.