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Ohio man arrested over parody of police department’s Facebook page

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but try telling that to the cops of Parma, Ohio.

After coming across a parody Facebook page mimicking its own site, police in the town decided to arrest its creator for “disrupting public services.”

Parma resident Anthony Novak launched the site earlier this month, filling it with content that the police department described as “derogatory” and “inflammatory.” Speaking to Cleveland.com, Lt. Kevin Riley said the material was presented in a way that suggested it was coming directly from department officials.

The page, which has since been taken offline, closely mimicked the design of Parma cops’ Facebook page, and included fake news stories and information that the department said painted it in a bad light.

One note read: “Parma is an equal opportunity employer but is strongly encouraging minorities not to apply,” while another claimed Parma police would be offering “free abortions to teens” at a forthcoming fundraiser. You get the idea.

After finding the site, Parma PD put a notice on its own page, saying it wanted to “warn the public that a fake Parma Police Facebook page has been created.” It went on, “The public should disregard any and all information posted on the fake Facebook account. The individual(s) who created this fake account are not employed by the police department.”

The vast majority of the 450+ comments on Parma PD’s Facebook post lambast the cops’ response to Novak, suggesting the department’s been way too heavy-handed in its approach. One wrote, “You get Facebook to take down the page, sure. Arresting the man who put it up is tyrannical, full stop. Arresting someone who mocked you in public is the very essence of a free speech violation.” Another said simply, “Humorless robots, well done.”

Related: Facebook’s latest test feature notifies you if someone is impersonating your account

It won’t come as a big surprise to learn that the department’s actions and the resulting publicity have led to the creation of a load more imitation sites (here, here, and here, for example) criticizing or poking fun at Parma police, though it’s hard to believe cops will be knocking on the creators’ doors anytime soon.

Novak, 27, made his first court appearance on Monday. A grand jury will ultimately decide if he’s to face trial for his alleged offense. If it goes all the way, he could face up to 18 months in prison.