Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer, who has been on the job since January, said his department - plagued by lawsuits and budgetary woes in the past - is "disappointed but not disheartened."
"Corruption is like a cancer," Laufer said. "It needs to be irradiated and cut out."
He was alerted to the alleged thefts this year when Coatesville Detective Kevin Campbell, the incoming president of the city's police union, found discrepancies in the union's financial information.
According to the warrant, Campbell found "a pattern of suspicious payments to Gerald and Stacy Pawling," Pawling's wife. They included funds from a magic-show fund-raiser - the union's major annual event - that Pawling allegedly called reimbursements for expenses relating to the show.
The fund-raising company working with the union said there was no reason Pawling would have had to reimburse himself for any expenses from the show.
The warrant also alleges that Pawling forged signatures of two other Coatesville police officers on eight checks, resulting in a loss of several thousand dollars for the union.
Chester County detectives began investigating the thefts in April after Laufer and Campbell reported their suspicions to them.
On Aug. 6, Pawling was interviewed at the district attorney's office, according to the warrant, and confessed to stealing money from the union. He estimated that he took $30,000 to $40,000 between 2009 and 2012.
The union's funds generally go toward fees for officers' legal defense and benefits for families of injured officers, Hogan said, adding that it was "a sad day for Chester County."
"Gerald Pawling betrayed his brothers and sisters in law enforcement," Hogan said. "He rewarded their trust by taking their money."
Pawling was arraigned Thursday morning, Hogan said, and bail was set at $200,000.
Contact Aubrey Whelan at 610-313-8112 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter at @aubreyjwhelan.