The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

June 18, 2013

Ohio police chief takes criminals to task online

(Continued)

KENT — 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 Brim-field 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.

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