Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar Placed on Leave Pending ‘Internal Investigation,’ Mayor Says 


Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar has been placed on administrative leave, Mayor Dan Mortensen confirmed for The Chronicle on Friday afternoon. 

Mortensen declined to offer details on the reasoning behind the chief’s leave, but said Morningstar was under an “internal investigation.” 

While on leave, Morningstar will not be able to enter the police office but will continue receiving pay and benefits, the mayor said.

Mortensen said operations at the Morton Police Department will continue as normal while Morningstar is on leave. He also said other law enforcement agencies, mostly the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, “will assist as necessary, if needed.” Mortensen said Morningstar’s being placed on leave will “hopefully” not impact police service in Pe Ell and Mossyrock, which contract with the East Lewis County town for police overage.

According to Mortensen, the next officer in charge for the Morton Police Department is Cole Cournyer. 

Though not ready to provide details on the decision to place Morningstar on leave, Mortensen did address specific inquiries from The Chronicle. 

According to the mayor, Morningstar being placed on leave was not related to investigations into his alleged affiliations with far-right groups or to citizen claims Morningstar delayed an investigation into a rape case in Morton. 

In 2020, the Washington Three-Percenters, defined by the Anti Defamation League as an anti-government extremist militia group, said they were loosely organizing at a Morton counter-protest against Black Lives Matter under Morningstar’s direction, though Morningstar denied their claim. 

In 2022, The Chronicle reported on allegations the Morton Police Department had abused the K9 “Camo,” and on a Washington State Patrol investigation into the claim. The department did not return requests for comment to the newspaper, but days after the article was published, Morningstar released a four-page letter on Facebook claiming The Chronicle reporting was a “complete fabrication” and that the article “flat-out lied.”

As for citizen concerns related to the reported rape, which reportedly took place in August 2022, Morningstar claimed his office was “dilligently” investigating.

Morningstar was sworn into office on Dec. 28, 2016, the same day former chief Dan Mortensen officially became Morton’s mayor.

Morningstar was in the 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. His father, uncle and grandfather were all police officers in Arizona.

He became familiar with Western Washington in the 1990s when his father was stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey. He worked for the Quinault tribal police and then the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen before coming to Morton. 

Previous reporting by The Chronicle was included in this report.