Newberg cop's 'dangerous' social media posts alarm residents
In the aftermath of a violent insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 by right-wing extremists, political tensions — especially on social media — are high. Locally, one politically charged Facebook post in particular drew the concern of some Newberg residents on Jan. 8, showcasing what they believe to be implicit bias and dangerous views on the part of a sworn officer in the Newberg-Dundee Police Department.
The Facebook account "Steve Schoendawg," which residents say belongs to longtime NDPD officer and K-9 handler Steve Schoening, made its profile picture a quote from Ulysses S. Grant: "There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots …" The quote, posted two days after rioters who often referred to themselves as "patriots" stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in at least five deaths and scores of injuries, presumably references Democrats and Republicans who refused to support President Trump's attempts to overturn the election as "traitors" and tacitly endorses the "patriots" who led last Wednesday's insurrection.
The original quote, of course, has nothing to do with the current political climate or the events of Jan. 6. It was part of a letter written by the future President Grant in 1861 during the early stages of the Civil War. In it, Grant refers to the traitors leading the confederacy and the patriots willing to defend the fractured country from those in the south who sought violence in the name of maintaining the institution of slavery.
One of the rioters on Jan. 6 was photographed carrying a large Confederate flag through the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
Multiple Newberg residents contacted this newspaper with concerns about the Jan. 8 post, saying it is "dangerous" for a police officer to possess such extreme views and broadcast them on social media.
"I know that if I were a Democrat, I'd be terrified to get pulled over by (Schoening)," one resident said under the condition of anonymity. "Or a person of color, for that matter."
The Jan. 8 post was not the only one that gave residents pause. Another profile picture, posted on Oct. 7, depicts the image of a black, raised fist — a symbol for movements of Black liberation such as Black Lives Matter — being bitten by a snake and bleeding. The snake over a yellow background ostensibly refers to the Gadsden or "Don't Tread on Me" flag often used by conservatives to assert individual freedom and gun rights.
Given the tense relations between Black Americans and the police as protesters demand accountability for perceived police brutality and institutional racism, residents said they were worried the Oct. 7 post showed bias on the part of a police officer with more than two decades of experience with the local force.
NDPD Public Information Officer Brian Hagen released a brief statement regarding both posts: "The employee will be contacted to determine if they indeed made the posts and for what purpose," he said. "It will then be evaluated if a violation of policy occurred."
The police department's social media policy states that "Public employees occupy a trusted position in the community, and thus, their statements have the potential to contravene the policies and performance of this department. Due to the nature of the work and influence associated with the law enforcement profession, it is necessary that employees of this department be subject to certain reasonable limitations on their speech and expression."
These limitations include, but are not limited to, posts that can compromise or damage the "mission, function, reputation or professionalism" of the department, or posts that include "statements that indicate disregard for the law or the state or U.S. Constitution" or "expression that demonstrates support for criminal activity."
Schoening removed the Facebook post late last week and changed the photo that accompanied his "Schoendawg" profile to a depiction of a unicorn and rainbows.
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