Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar was the subject of criticism again last week after sharing a video on Facebook, the thumbnail image of which featured a doctored photo of President Joe Biden with a noose around his neck, with bold text reading “hang him up.”
On Tuesday, Morton Mayor Dan Mortensen told The Chronicle that no disciplinary action will be taken. He criticized recent news reports on the incident. Last week, Seattle’s KING 5 News visited the East Lewis County town to report on the story.
“Those reporters didn’t know that the first amendment is protected under the constitution. So because someone doesn’t like what he posts doesn’t mean he shouldn’t post it, or that he’s breaking some law, or that he should be hung by the neck until dead,” Mortensen said.
Morningstar — who deleted the post — could not be reached by The Chronicle’s print deadline. He declined to provide comment to KING 5 News. But Mortensen said the police chief didn’t know the post contained something offensive at first and that he was “unaware that the Biden thing was in the post fairly further down.”
When The Chronicle informed Mortensen that the post was a video, rather than something in writing, Mortensen said he hadn’t actually seen the post in question, or any screenshots circulated by activist groups. But that information, he said, doesn’t change his stance.
“I think if the chief had known that was in there he wouldn’t have posted it. That was what he told me,” he said.
It’s not the first time Morningstar — whose homemade “Trump tower” in his front lawn drew attention and some criticism last year from residents and a city councilmember — has come under fire for his posts and political affiliations. Over the summer, he similarly deleted a video of trucks driving through protesters with the caption “when MAGA strikes back in Portland.” He regularly uses his Facebook account to echo debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and called Reverend Raphael Warnock’s recent victory as Georgia’s first Black senator the product of “Voodoo math.”
Mortensen said the city doesn’t have any policies around the use of social media. The existing policies, he said, likely haven’t been updated since cellphones became commonplace.
“The reason I can tell you that is because I wrote the policy and procedure manual when I was the chief of police for 33 years in the City of Morton,” he said.
A public disclosure request of Morton’s code of conduct regarding social media use has not yet been returned.