Two officers from Tennessee find themselves on the other side of the law after being charged with official misconduct stemming from a TBI investigation. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation allege that Britton Cornell and Ryan Dugger used the criminal justice portal system to make “excessive inquiries” on days and times when they were not working.
Cornell, once named officer of the month for breaking up a felony theft ring, is accused of looking up private information of people and Facebook friends outside the scope of his law enforcement duties. The veteran cop is also accused of fighting a shoplifting suspect in a Columbia Walmart and not reporting the incident to authorities. Cornell refused to comply with the investigation into his actions declining to take a polygraph test. Cornell resigned shortly after the investigation into him began.
The internal police report states that Cornell was illegally moonlighting as a loss prevention officer at Walmart with fellow officer, Ryan Dugger. The pair were working at the retail giant March 31 when a suspected shoplifter attempted to leave the store. Cornell displayed his Franklin police badge and stopped the shoplifter, which is against company policy.
“The off-duty officer and the shoplifter began to fight and Cornell put the shoplifter in a choke hold that is not authorized by Franklin police. According to the report, the shoplifter broke free and began kicking Cornell, who got the man down on the ground.”
The report also states that Cornell began punching the suspect in the head with his right hand. Dugger was also injured in the scuffle which was not reported to their supervisors. Cornell missed his mandated SWAT training because of the altercation.
As police investigated Cornell and Dugger it was revealed that Cornell accessed the police department’s criminal justice portal excessively and inappropriately for personal use. The names Cornell accessed matched friends on Facebook. Investigators also saw the name of the Columbia shoplifter that Cornell fought in the Walmart. Investigators notified Cornell April 13 that he was scheduled for a polygraph exam. Cornell surrendered his badge, uniform, and equipment the following day.
When asked about his unauthorized access of the police department’s portal Cornell denied any wrongdoing placing the blame on Dugger. “Ryan Dugger must have obtained my username and password and ran the names,” Cornell claimed.
Dugger is facing accusations that he accessed the criminal justice portal fraudulently and working a security job without permission. Internal documents state he was deceptive and uncooperative during the internal investigation. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report revealed that audits showed “excessive queries” on the portal. Many queries were not associated with any police incident number and they occurred during non-police department work time. Investigators were able to tie Dugger’s use of the portal with his second job as a loss prevention officer. It was also revealed that he queried names and address of people in Columbia including family members.
Dugger attempted to hide his position at Walmart telling police chief Deborah Faulkner he was a door greeter. Franklin police contacted the store to confirm Dugger’s claim. Manager Shannon Stonecipher told officers that Dugger was employed within the loss prevention section.
When police confronted Dugger about the lie, he refused to cooperate and stopped answering questions. Dugger reportedly argued the merit of the investigation. He ultimately chose to resign than answer questions about his second employment.
Cornell was arrested Wednesday and was booked into the Williamson County Jail. Dugger turned himself in on Thursday morning. According to the TBI, both men are being held on $5,000 bond.
The department has submitted a request for both men to be decertified by the State of Tennessee Peace Officers Standards Training Commission, which would keep them from working as police officers in Tennessee.
Faulkner released this statement about the arrests:
“After ordering an administrative investigation, I contacted District Attorney General Kim Helper to request a review of this matter by her office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The criminal indictments of Cornell and Dugger for Official Misconduct and Official Misuse of Information were the result. Franklin Police Officers depend on and value the trust of our citizens. Violating that trust is never an option.”
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