Civil rights lawyer: Arrest of Harrisburg police corporal shows accountability system working

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The supervisor of the Harrisburg Bureau of Police’s vice unit is facing federal charges. He’s accused of stealing money during undercover sting operations.

Sources say there are accusations Cpl. Sean Cornick was shaking down drug dealers. Now, he could face years in prison.

“Number one, it does send a message to other police officers that they’re not above the law, that they have to abide by the laws they’re asked to enforce,” national civil rights lawyer Devon M. Jacob said.

This type of arrest also builds confidence in police, said Jacob, whose law practice is based in Mechanicsburg.

The red flags in this case, he said, set off the right alarm bells.

“It’s when the alarm systems aren’t in place that there’s a problem,” he said, “and unfortunately there are a lot of departments that don’t have the proper checks and balances in place.”

It looks like they’re in place here, Jacob said.

Police arrested the 19-year Harrisburg police veteran on federal theft charges. Investigators say the vice unit supervisor was caught on camera stealing money from a police evidence locker.

Someone filed a complaint with police internal affairs and the department opened an investigation right away, the city said in a news release.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse thanked police Chief Thomas Carter in a statement, adding, “We are now looking at ways to strengthen our internal controls to prevent any possibility of theft.”

Federal and state agencies worked with Harrisburg police on the investigation.

“It’s an affront to all those in law enforcement who carry out their sworn duties with integrity,” special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia division Michael T. Harpster said in a statement.

“And overall, the Harrisburg police department’s a very good police department,” Jacob said.

As disappointing as the charges are, he went on, it’s encouraging no other cops were charged.

“This doesn’t appear to be a situation where, you know, we’re going to find a big ring of criminals that are operating,” he said.

Cornick, 44, was released on a $10,000 bond Thursday. We’re told he’s been suspended with pay.

We were not able to reach Cornick for comment Friday.

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