The Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) has served former Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar a statement of charges, the first step toward revoking Morningstar’s peace officer certification.
“The (CJTC)’s investigation determined that the officer more than likely committed qualifying misconduct,” a CJTC employee said in an email on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
The statement of charges itself was not publicly available on Tuesday.
As of Monday, Oct. 2, Morningstar had 60 days to request a hearing to defend against the charges, which include allegations he sexually harassed fellow employees and citizens at both the Morton Police Department and his previous police jobs, lied on his application to the Morton Police Department, misused public funds, and mishandled an investigation into an attempted burglary by a registered sex offender.
Morningstar, who was hired as Morton’s police chief in 2016, resigned from the Morton Police Department in lieu of termination on June 2 after he failed a polygraph exam related to an internal investigation into the complaints. Before his resignation, he had been on administrative leave since the City of Morton opened its internal investigation on May 15.
Lewis County commissioners unanimously voted last Aug. 30 to remove Roger Morningstar from the county’s Veterans Advisory Board. Morningstar is also no longer serving as state committeeman for the Lewis County Republicans, Chair Brandon Svenon previously told The Chronicle.
Morningstar’s peace officer certification will be automatically revoked if he fails to request a hearing within the 60-day window. If Morningstar does request a hearing, “there are some administrative steps that take place before the hearing is scheduled,” a CJTC employee said in an email. The CJTC advised it could take up to 120 days, or four months, for a hearing to be scheduled.
The CJTC completed an investigation into citizen complaints against Morningstar in April and referred the investigative material, which included recommendations for disciplinary action, to the state Attorney General’s Office on May 25, according to previous Chronicle reporting.
At the conclusion of its report, the CJTC investigator explained they had established a statutory basis for Morningstar’s decertification under Revised Code of Washington 43.101.105, which dictates circumstances under which an officer’s certification can be denied, suspended or revoked.
Specifically, CJTC found evidence that Morningstar violated 43.101.105 (3)(f), which prohibits officers from committing sexual harassment; 43.101.105 (3)(c), which prohibits officers from knowingly falsifying or omitting material information on an application to an employer; and 43.101.105 (3)(iv), which prohibits officers from engaging in conduct that fails to meet the ethical or professional standards required of a peace officer.
With that statutory basis established, CJTC “may deny, suspend or revoke certification or require remedial trailing of an applicant or officer,” according to the documents.
The CJTC did investigate claims Morningstar had ties to extremist organizations and found some evidence online indirectly tying Morningstar to several extremist groups, but the investigation turned up “an absence of facts linking Morningstar directly to an extremist organization,” according to previous Chronicle reporting.
The Chronicle’s previous article on the investigation is accesible online at https://www.chronline.com/stories/sexual-harassment-lies-and-misused-funds-claims-against-former-morton-police-chief-detailed-in,323105.
Morningstar served in the U.S. Air Force from 1996 to 1999, when he started working for the Arizona Department of Corrections and serving in the Army National Guard as a military police officer. He worked for a tribal police department in Fallon, Nevada, from 2007 to 2012. At some point after 2012, he worked for the Sauk Suiattle Police Department, then for the Quinault Nation Police Department, from which he resigned in 2015. He then worked for the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen before he was hired as Morton’s chief of police in December of 2016.