Chief urges civil online comments after stabbings

Kantele Franko

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In the crush of social media reaction to the Pittsburgh-area school stabbings that wounded 21 students, a small-town Ohio police chief drew a response with a straightforward plea: “Pipe down and let the people mourn.”

The admonishment from Chief David Oliver was part of a longer post aimed at people reacting with online comments more about policy and politics than support for children affected at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, a two-hour drive from Oliver’s Brimfield Township department in northeast Ohio.

Oliver, whose forthright and sometimes humorous style has earned him an outsized Facebook following, urged commenters to set a good example by being respectful.

“Until we, as adults, learn to stop being angry, insulting each other and picking fights every chance we get, how in heck can we expect our kids to behave any differently?” he wrote Wednesday.

Oliver’s department serves about 10,500 people, but its Facebook page has a much larger audience, with nearly 145,000 “likes.” It is one of the most-liked local law enforcement pages in the country, trailing only the much larger department in New York, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police Center for Social Media.

His post Wednesday drew 32,000 likes and 3,400 comments within 24 hours. It was viewed more than 1.5 million times, Oliver said in an interview Thursday as the list of comments grew, with many people praising the chief, including some from around Pittsburgh.

“Murrysville does not need people telling them that conservatives do this and liberals said that and that teachers need to be armed and we as a collective society suck,” wrote Amy Boccieri, who lives in the area. “This community needs to see that people are rallying behind them.”

Boccieri, a mother of three with a fourth on the way, said in an interview Thursday that she chimed in on the Brimfield page because she felt rocked by the stabbings occurring so close to home and disappointed by some of the reaction online.

“I hate how everything is always politicized,” she said.

Other commenters criticized Oliver’s stance or his use of a department page rather than a personal one, or said it was logical after such a crime to discuss school safety, the regulation of weapons, proper parenting and other issues.

Oliver had initially posted a short statement offering thoughts and prayers after the stabbings. He said he felt compelled to write more because he thought too many commenters on that post were inappropriately politicizing tragedy and thereby being disrespectful.

“I’m more concerned about kids dying than I am about who has a D or an R at the end of their name,” he said.

Oliver is known around Brimfield for his bluntness, and his posts regularly take to tasks criminals, whom he calls “mopes,” a term appropriated from TV and an old colleague. He has capitalized on his popularity by pitching mugs and T-shirts with “no mopes” logos to raise money for school security improvements and by writing a book that benefits a charity organization he formed.

KANTELE FRANKO, Associated Press