Police Captain Pokes at Judges Through Official City Account on NextDoor


Captain Steven Mueller. - VIA SLMPD/NEXTDOOR
  • via SLMPD/NextDoor
  • Captain Steven Mueller.

NextDoor, the neighborhood-specific social media platform for neighbors who are paranoid about other neighbors, has a neat feature for public safety departments. It's called "public agency partners," and it works like this: While regular users are limited to posting inside their respective neighborhood bubbles, users like Steven Mueller, a captain with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, can post across neighborhoods, thus reaching residents with updates about investigations, community meetings and tips for staying safe.

Or, as Mueller demonstrated on Saturday, they can share lyrics to a parody of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" mocking soft-on-crime judges.

The parody tells the story of a hapless resident whose car is stolen. The cops find it, but it's not that simple:

"In the court/the judge will have compassion/For the poor, misguided little thief/He'll see say, 'Case dismissed! I'll take no action/But this is your 3rd car theft case this week."

As Mueller implies in the post's intro, he first posted the parody last year, though it appears that, at the time, the song only appeared on the private Facebook page for the first police district. (Mueller is listed as a commander in the district.)

Yet while Mueller can use his personal Facebook account for outreach, on NextDoor Mueller is recognized as a "public agency partner" — and thus we're left with the odd tension of an official social media account representing a city police department joking that bleeding-heart judges care more about car thieves than crime victims.

The tension wasn't lost on some of the NextDoor users who commented on the post. Yet when one asked about any "subliminal message" in the song, Mueller explained that his only message was, "Don't leave your running car unattended. It might not be there when you come back to it!"

Good advice, to be sure, but in a follow-up response, Mueller added: "... [W]e do see, too often, repeat offenders turned loose on the streets with only probation or SIS" — suspended imposition of sentence. "It's just a humorous poke at a serious situation."

OK, so it's not like Mueller was calling on the masses to storm the courthouse with pitchforks. But even a fairly innocuous poke at the justice system gets complicated when it comes from a NextDoor account that carries the city's imprimatur.

Making matters worse? Democratic Party Committeewoman Marie Ceselski alleged on Twitter yesterday that someone was deleting comments critical of Mueller's posting:

This isn't the first time Mueller has run into trouble on NextDoor: In November, at the request of an unnamed alderman, he removed a NextDoor post breaking down the Prop P votes across the city's wards, one that highlighted in red those wards where the vote earned less than 50 percent approval. In a post announcing the post's removal, Mueller apologized "for the appearance of calling out any particular aldermen on the NextDoor post" and emphasized that he "was not intending any threat of retaliation for the wards where [Prop P] did not pass."

We reached out to the police department this morning to learn its position on its "public agency partners" on NextDoor. We'll update this post if we hear back.

Update 12:30 p.m.: In a statement, SLMPD spokeswoman Michelle Woodling said that the department's Public Information Division "does not utilize NextDoor," adding that Mueller's account "acts independently of any social media platform the SLMPD uses."

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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