Officials react to Shifler's arrest

February 11, 2006|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ


Boonsboro Police Chief Jeff Hewett said he was both shocked and embarrassed by the allegations filed against Jeffrey Scott Shifler, the former Hagerstown Police Department officer arrested Thursday in connection with hate mail he allegedly sent and threatening phone calls he allegedly made dating to 2004.

"Shock, it's definitely a shock," Hewett said. "Because of the allegations, of course, I'm embarrassed for the police department and for the City of Hagerstown."

Shifler, 41, of Maugansville, who was hired as an officer by the newly formed Boonsboro Police Department in July 2005, is alleged to have made 14 anonymous phone calls and written at least nine letters containing threats, insults or false crime reports between March 2004 and last week, including an anthrax threat at Hagerstown's City Hall in mid-January. Shifler made an initial appearance Friday in a federal court in Baltimore and is being held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.


Hewett said he could not comment on the allegations. He said Shifler has been placed on administrative leave without pay until he either is convicted or cleared of the charges against him.

Hewett said he is in talks with area law enforcement agencies, including the Washington County Sheriff's Department, to have an officer fill in for Shifler temporarily. In addition to Shifler, the Boonsboro Police Department has one other full-time officer and one part-time officer.

Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. Kauffman Jr. said he was "shocked and surprised" by the news of Shifler's arrest, but he said it is too early to tell what impact it has had on either the police department or the community as a whole. Kauffman said the town will act as quickly as possible to find someone to temporarily replace Shifler.

"We need coverage, so yes, we will fill that void as soon as possible," he said. "Life goes on, and we will do our best to provide coverage from our police department."

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith declined to comment on the allegations against Shifler, and he minimized the effect his arrest has had on the police department. Shifler was fired from the department in 2003 after falsifying payroll records. Smith, who said he had fired Shifler, said the officer was far enough removed that, three years later, news of his arrest did not have much impact on the department.

Smith said the department worked closely with other law enforcement authorities investigating the threat, diverting resources that otherwise could have been used on other police matters.

"Obviously, some of what he did took us away from what we could have been doing, so it obviously affects the whole community," Smith said. "The only thing I can tell you is the system worked. It was a fair amount of effort, but the system worked."

Smith said, by law, he passed information about Shifler's termination to the proper authorities screening Shifler. Hewett declined to comment on Shifler's background or what information he might have received about him. He said the department follows regulations regarding the screening of officer candidates, and that falsification of payroll documents might not have excluded him from consideration.

Hagerstown City Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who said he had received one of the threat letters, said he was pleased to know someone had been arrested in connection with the threats.

"I think it's going to be very relieving to have that little bit of cancer removed from society," Metzner said. "Hatred in our community, whether done by ex-members of the police department or anybody else, is unacceptable to the community, and it was not surprising the police department terminated his employment."

Metzner, who was not named as a victim in connection with the criminal complaint filed against Shifler, said he does not believe Shifler's alleged actions should blacken the reputation of the Hagerstown Police Department or its officers.

"It's an unfortunate part of human nature, and what we can do, and have to do, is ferret it out when it occurs ... clearly, this is terrorism. This is domestic terrorism," Metzner said. "There are rotten eggs in the police department like there are anywhere else."

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