COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio police chief who invited his nearly 85,000 Facebook followers to his small town's community festival this weekend expects at least 1,000 from near and far to show up.
Brimfield Township Chief David Oliver started the department's Facebook page more than three years ago in the hopes of reaching a few hundred people in his northeast Ohio community. But his posts mixing humor, blunt opinion, community engagement and rants against "mopes" — criminals and other ne'er-do-wells — draw an audience much larger than the approximately 10,000 residents the department serves.
The department's Facebook fans surpassed that of the Philadelphia police page this summer and trail only the much larger Boston and New York departments.
Oliver said more than 1,000 signed up to visit this weekend. They hail from all over, Arkansas and Arizona to Maryland and Mississippi.
Andy Marek, who is making the seven-hour drive from Interlochen, Mich., said Oliver's character and outsize following convinced him "there's something to that town," and he's eager to see it.
"You can't have a police chief like him unless you've got some other quality people," the 41-year-old sales associate said. "I'm curious to see what the town's like, and to meet Chief Oliver."
Overall, local officials expect several thousand more people than usual to come to the annual Brimfest. The only folks not welcome are the mopes, and any who risk a visit may get acquainted with several other law enforcement agencies on hand patrolling for trouble.
The event started Thursday and includes fireworks, fair foods, competitive line-dancing and a Saturday parade that Oliver has transformed this year into a tribute for veterans. More than 400 will participate, including some World War II veterans and two busloads of patients from the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.
"I think that people are coming out because of the idea and because of, you know, it's kind of an all-American thing," Oliver told The Associated Press.
Another draw will be the big, beefy chief himself and the launch of his book, "No Mopes Allowed."
The book proceeds go to a nonprofit foundation he and his wife created to benefit local programs and sexually abused children. It's the latest community betterment project by the chief and his officers, who also have pitched "no mopes" gear made by a local shop to raise more than $10,000 for school security improvements.
Kelly Whelan is driving for a little over five hours from Ashburn, Va., to attend Brimfest — and get a signed copy of Oliver's book. Whelan, 45, made hotel reservations in April after reading Oliver's invitation.
Whelan will attend the festival in a group of six. She and a friend bought Virginia police badges and are hoping to swap them for one from Brimfield.
Not everyone is a fan of Oliver's approach, and commenters occasionally gripe that he uses work time inappropriately for Facebook or shouldn't be discussing suspects in a public forum. But Oliver isn't fazed by criticism or Facebook fame.
"If you're going to start social media, you have to be consistent," he said. "And that's all I want to do. ... I want to keep being me, keep being us here at the police department, keep our efforts very clear and our mission very clear on doing the right thing and helping as many people as possible."
Follow Kantele Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10 .
Brimfield Police: www.facebook.com/BrimfieldPolice