Every week people question whether the Phoenixville Police Department's incident blotters — which are posted to the department's Facebook page — are real or not.
They're that good — and bizarre.
Take this entry from Nov. 3: "…at 5:45 p.m., police responded to the unit block of E. Walnut Street for a report of a woman with a deceased possum. Insisting the animal had been shot, the intoxicated resident began using her fingers to dig inside the carcass for the bullet. The officer cautioned the woman against exposing her bare hands to the dead animal and convinced her to dispose of it."
The blotters, which are posted twice weekly by Phoenixville Sgt. Joe Nemic, are a throwback to an older time when newspapers printed daily incident call logs, also known as police blotters, for local departments.
"When I started, our local reporter from the Pottstown Mercury would come in every day and read our blotter, but they haven't done that for years," said Nemic, a 26-year veteran. "Instead of a reporter coming in, now I'm providing that information to the public and our followers."
And he's doing so without pomp or police jargon. Nemic uses terms like "throw down" instead of assault and "weed" instead of "a leafy green substance believed to be marijuana." He's also not afraid to insert some humor.
When writing about a Jan. 6 fight at a club, Nemic wrote: "The officers broke up the fight and the participants had the good sense to walk away — except one. A 21 year old man from Stowe pushed past the officers and tried to throw down again so he was arrested."
>> READ MORE: The best of Phoenixville's police blotter
"I told the chief I wanted to use common terminology instead of police jargon," Nemic said. "It connects with the people better and helps them realize we're just members of the community doing this difficult job."
And the people are loving it.
"Best police blotter I've ever read," Georgette Ruocco commented on the department's Facebook page.
"Legit thought this was a joke while reading at one point," Facebook commenter Justine Barrales said. "Thank you men and women for putting up with the stupidity and helping those in need."
When Nemic, 45, took over the blotter in August, after eight years as head of the detective unit, he was so new to social media he didn't have a Facebook account. But in just six months, his blotters have become so popular that the department has nearly doubled its Facebook following to more than 5,300 people. A cartoonist, Jackie Hripto, 39, of Spring City, has even created comic strips based off the blotters.
"I planned to use the blotter as a new source of inspiration, since the writer is a great storyteller," Hripto said.
While the blotters are funny, well-written and, at times, completely absurd, there's also an underlying vein of sadness and social criticism pumping through them. These police logs offer an inside glimpse into the bizarre calls authorities answer in a small town that's experiencing a major revitalization through a growing restaurant and bar scene.
Consequently, many of the calls officers answer involve public drunkenness, public urination, open containers, and driving under the influence. Police also respond to an unsettling number of calls for people who are passed out drunk on sidewalks.
"It's an unpleasant side effect of the success of the town," Nemic said.
Before he took over the blotter, the department simply reported the number of DUI or public drunkenness arrests it made, instead of giving an account of what happened. Nemic thought that approach gave the appearance that the department's 30 officers were just arresting revelers willy nilly.
"We wanted to show that the majority of the arrests we are making, we are responding to reports," he said. "My hope is it paints an overall picture of the services that the taxpayers are getting … we want to show these guys are running around all day handling all sorts of calls for service, they're not just waiting for you to go through a red light."