Akron Life - June 2013

the interview

Rodney Wilson 2013-05-23 06:05:33

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Brimfield Township is home to 10,350 people. But pay a visit to the Brimfield Police Department’s Facebook page — if you haven’t, you really should — and you’ll notice something unexpected: The page’s “Likes” are quadruple the population count and originate all over the world. As of this writing, the page boasts over 42,000 fans and, if the three years since its creation are any indication, that number will keep climbing. This global fandom of a small-town police station is due to Chief David A. Oliver, lawman extraordinaire and oversized personality behind those people-pleasing status updates (and the cartoon face on Brimfield Police’s official merchandise). Oliver daily updates citizens near and far on township goingson and thwarted attempts of ne’er-dowells he calls “mopes.” Oliver’s online activity is warm, funny and personable and exhibits a deft knack for storytelling not often seen in a public servant. Did you always want to be a police officer? If not, what did preschoolage Chief dream of being when he grew up? Chief: I’ve wanted to be a police officer as long as I can remember. Andrew (who’s been my best friend since we were four years old) and I started playing “cops and robbers” when we were five years old or so. We also played Batman, but there was no chance of having another caped crusader, so I stuck with law enforcement. I believe it’s such a noble profession. Have you always been such a willing communicator? Chief: Yes. I’m a talker by nature. I also love life. My grandfather was very funny and also a practical joker. I spent a lot of time with him and my grandmother when I was growing up. We spent a lot of time fishing and talking. From a public servant’s perspective — and just this particular public servant’s perspective — we serve the people. With the exception of giving information which could jeopardize an active investigation, I believe the public should know what we do. I add some humor and tell a story. What made you decide to start the Brimfield Police Department’s Facebook page in the first place? Chief: Everywhere I went, and in almost every conversation I had, someone was mentioning Facebook. They were mentioning seeing various things on Facebook: someone’s status, a video, pictures or other information. I knew some police departments had started using Facebook. I wanted a way to get information to people on their terms. I believed if we were able to reach 500 people, it would be a success. Yikes … we reach a little more than that now. Where did you get the term “mopes”? Chief: I believe the first time I ever heard it was on the TV show, “Kojak.” I started using it when I was eight years old or so, but only when catching pretend bad-guys. It’s an old police term that has sort of been brought out of retirement. I keep seeing “Chief for President” in the comments. Do you have political aspirations? Chief: Not a chance. I am a cop. I would not enjoy working in gridlock. I have to establish goals and then accomplish them. That’s very hard to do when people on most elected levels cannot get along and only focus on winning the next election. Everyone goes a different direction in politics. That’s not the way to get meaningful things done. I can do more good and help more people where I am. The department’s Facebook page has become a bona fide sensation. Has mega-stardom gone to your head? Chief: That may be the funniest thing I’ve heard, ever. I’m thrilled with the success of the page and thrilled also that so many people stop by and say hello everyday. I sure don’t see myself as famous or a mega-star because in the total view of things, I’m still a small-town police chief in one small corner of the world posting information on our Facebook page. I get a lot more emails and phone calls now though. I often arrive at work to find 120 emails waiting on me. It’s kind of crazy that your posts are popular internationally. What do you think of that? Chief: I think that may be the most unusual thing about the page. We have friends from all 50 states and now 26 countries. We have regular posters from England, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Columbia and a bunch of other countries. I love it. I think it’s very valuable to have points of view from other cultures, particularly when it involves how they deal with and view criminal offenders and sentencing. Does Mrs. Chief treat you differently now that you’re a celebrity? Chief: Mrs. Chief is not convinced I’m a celebrity. I’ve been trying to convince her of that (even though I don’t believe it myself ) in order to get out of small tasks like taking out the garbage and hanging blinds. She is the best. Personally and professionally, I was kind of wandering around in the wilderness before she changed all of that. She keeps me focused and loves me. How about your workmates? Do the people at the station treat you with reverence? Chief: The people at the station spend a lot of time busting my chops over this entire experience. We all talked about having a Facebook page and how valuable it could be. None of us were thinking that we would have people approach us in public and want to shake our hands or take pictures with us. The officers and staff here know me well enough to understand that no amount of publicity can change who I am or how I treat others. We’re having fun. I’ve seen a few criticisms of your online activity, despite overwhelming appreciation. What are the benefits of someone in your position taking advantage of social media outlets? Chief: I don’t mind criticism if it’s used as designed, which is to better an idea or organization. I do mind a blanket statement or “painting with a broad brush.” One of the best aspects of our page is that we can set the record straight. We often times counter a broad statement, made by an antipolice person, with facts related directly to the topic. The biggest advantage is simply having regular dialogue with the people we serve … and 32,000 others. Would you recommend police chiefs and other officials take advantage of public platforms? Chief: As technology becomes more prevalent and readily available, being on this platform is a must. Many people have smart phones. We can disseminate information to 42,000 people in less than 10 seconds. We use Facebook, Twitter, Nixle and have our own smart phone app. Social media is absolutely invaluable. How do you feel about Twitter? Chief: Our Twitter account is @brimfieldpolice. It’s linked to our Facebook page, so when we post, we tweet. The downfall for me is the limit on wording. I have a lot to say. In my spare time, you’ll find me ... Chief: Reading. I consider spare time to be when I’m not working at work or working at home. I usually read three books at a time. I absolutely love to read. I will read the phonebook if there’s nothing else around. What three books are you reading right now? Chief: I’m currently reading “Without” by E.E. Borton. It’s about the power of going out and surviving chaos. The second book is “The Trivium” by Sister Miriam Joseph. It’s a little dry for most but very good for learning. I am also reading “The History of Rome, Books I-III” by Titus Livius. I’m a history lover. What would surprise people about you? Chief: I would like to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail when I retire. Hiking the trail is on the bucket list that I don’t have. / Writer Rodney Wilson is owner and operator of Scribbles Coffee Co. in Kent. When not interviewing local celebrities, Rodney writes novels he doubts will ever get published.

Published by Baker Media. View All Articles.

This page can be found at http://digital.ipcprintservices.com/article/the+interview/1411272/160688/article.html.