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Brimfield police chief’s FB page causing buzz in legal community

Brimfield Township Police Chief David Oliver started a department Facebook page in 2010. Now its police department’s Facebook page has more followers than any other department’s other than New York City and Boston, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. (AP photo).

Legal News Reporter

Published: July 12, 2013

Brimfield Township Police Chief David Oliver started a department Facebook page in 2010 hoping for maybe 500 followers.

“With everyone using it, I thought it would be a great way to communicate,” said the 45-year-old Akron native. “Within the last year, it went from 3,000 to 8,000 to 13,000. The numbers just started getting crazy.”

As of June 22, Brimfield’s page had 67,910 Facebook likes.

“It just keeps going up, like gas prices,” Oliver said.

Brimfield is located in Portage County between Akron and Kent. It has a population of just 10,500 people, but its police department’s Facebook page has more followers than any other department’s other than New York City and Boston, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Oliver has gained international media attention for posting two to six times a day about serious issues, while having a sense of humor about the suspects he arrests.

“It has helped with the image of grumpy people who stop you for speeding,” he said. “There’s a wide population of people who like to read police stories from the comfort of their own home. I mean, ‘Cops’ has been on for 20 years.”

Oliver said he continues to have a great relationship with all the attorneys in the county despite typical posts like this from June 19:

Midnight Shift last night…..

Officers were called to a domestic incident at the same apartment building we arrested the meth cooks in last week. We are seeing a pattern at that location, so we will just drop by and be friendly every day or so......

The suspect assaulted his ex-girlfriend by striking her with a cue ball wrapped in a sock and also punched and kicked her. We would add the word allegedly….except the injuries are not alleged. This tough guy also held her against her will during the couple hours of on and off assaults….

She managed to escape and while running out of the house knocked a storage shelf into his path. He stole her car to skedaddle before we got there. While fleeing the scene, he crashed the car near the 700 block of Sandy Lake Road. After crashing the car, he did what most of us would do….he left the scene, went back home an hid in a closet…. Officers Atha and Dumont coached him out of his hole and awarded him silver bracelets and a trip to the bed and breakfast. He is charged with felony domestic violence, kidnapping and theft. He hits women and attempts to exert control over them physically, likely because they are all far more intelligent.

Oh....and he is the father of the subject we arrested last week for cooking meth. Mopery is apparently the family business…..

Great job Officers Atha and Dumont.......Chief Oliver

The chief, a father of four, said defense attorneys appreciate the fact that he does not put suspects’ names or mugshots on the Facebook page.

“I have a very soft spot for children,” he said. “I can’t have a 12-year-old waking up in the morning on Facebook and seeing a mugshot of their father, or dad, or uncle. Besides the fact, you’re innocent until proven guilty, so I’m not gonna drag people through the mud.”

Still, Oliver admits he gets plenty of good-natured ribbing from attorneys at the local courthouses.

“When I walk in, they’ll say, `Oh, the Internet sensation is here!’ “ Oliver said with a laugh.

Even defense attorneys love him

Cleveland defense attorney John Luskin said he admires what Oliver is trying to accomplish with his Facebook page.

“It’s nice. They’re very open,” said Luskin, a former Cleveland Heights police captain. “The old-style attitude is police have to operate in deep, dark secret. Chief Oliver is saying, `This is our community. Here is what we’re doing.’ It’s colorful. It’s commanding. It’s a public service.”

Luskin said his favorite post of the chief’s was when he opened up about changing his last name back to Oliver to honor his biological father, who died when he was 9.

“We used to be told, the babyboomers, that if you have a problem, go to the police department.,” Luskin added. “But things turned in the 1960s from the riots. The perception now is the policeman is the enemy, he’s going to beat you up, or we think, `That son of a (expletive) is going to give me a speeding ticket.’

“What Chief Oliver has done is made police more accessible. The open communication is needed with the public. He has said, `We’re here for you,’ and that’s what it’s all about. More police departments should take this proactive role. Ninety-five to 98 percent of every police officer in every department does a good job. But a small percentage feel they are God’s gift to law enforcement, and the public gets sour grapes.”

A balancing act

Attorney Jason Wuliger, a former Lake County assistant prosecutor, said he enjoys reading the Brimfield Police Facebook page.

“Most people probably agree with the things the chief is saying,” said Wuliger. “People like that there’s a public official who tells it like it is. He’s made some comments about national events that really stood out. He is thought-provoking at the very least.

“However, from a prosecutor’s perspective, it is not ideal for an investigating officer to make editorial comments prior to the conclusion of the investigation.

“It’s him giving his opinion on arrests that were just made hours ago, and that can certainly be damaging. He also uses slang, he calls (suspects) `mopes.’ “

Wuliger added that even though names and photos aren’t used of suspects, “there are people who know who he’s talking about, and the people who know are going to make up the jury pool.”

Still, the attorney said he does not want to criticize Oliver too much because of all the good he has done with his fame.

June 22 post:

We’ve had loads of call from Hollywood. You all know me. I don’t care about fame, money or movie stars….other than John Wayne. I care about Chuck Norris too, because he is Chuck Norris. If there is something we could do to raise money for our kids, programs and community…and it did not make us look like village idiots in uniform, I will discuss it. Other than that, I’m liking life as an internet sensation. You guys are like a bunch of silly cousins.

““I don’t want to take anything away from him because he’s put Brimfield on the map,” said Wuliger. “But it’s a balancing act of keeping the public informed vs. the potential harm due to public editorial comments about cases yet going to trial.”

Wuliger said it’s impressive that Oliver has raised thousands of dollars to improve school security.

“He also has an online store where people can buy Brimfield PD items and the money goes to the schools,” the attorney added. “He just posted on Facebook that he’s been approached to write a book and if he does he will give the money to charity. He seems like a good guy who is trying to make a difference.”

June 21 post:

•I don’t get state and national politicians. If I were them I would get out amongst the people and drink some coffee. I’ve been here nine years as the chief of police. I have had ONE elected person drop by (excluding my bosses). I’m no Marshal Dillon…I get that. I don’t expect a line outside the door; however, get out of the capital city and see the people. I couldn’t do the job, because I am too goofy. If someone called for Senator Whosit and he wasn’t at work, I would give the reason why. “No ma’am…the other senator is not here. He must have a sore back, because he spends a lot of time at the massage parlor.”

•Speaking of elected folks….let’s stop forming committees to make decisions. Someone grow a pair and do something. Sorry for the language. There are too many cooks in the kitchen at times. Form a committee for a picnic location and not much else. When a kid needs protection, stop talking and start working. Elvis sang “A Little less Conversation and a Little More Action…” Copy that, Elvis.