Give Shifler the maximum for violating civil rights law

August 10, 2006

A former Hagerstown police officer, angry at being dismissed after 16 years on the force, admitted through his attorney on Tuesday that he turned his anger on people who had nothing to do with his being fired.

Jeffrey Scott Shifler pleaded guilty to two federal civil rights charges for threatening African-American students and Alesia Parson-McBean, a member of the Hagerstown City Council.

On each count, the 42-year-old Shifler faces 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Shifler should get the maximum penalty, for three reasons.

The first is that some of his targets were young people who probably had never heard of him and or done anything to him. They were just pawns in his scheme of revenge.

The second is that by targeting Parson-McBean, he interfered with a citizen's right to hold public office, no matter what his or her race. That she didn't back off, despite what she felt was a real death threat, was an act of courage.


The third is even though Shifler was no longer a Hagerstown police officer, he used old departmental stationery to send some of his threats.

In doing so, Shifler raised the possibility that an officer in the department was behind the threats.

Perhaps tarnishing the department's image was what he intended to do, by playing on the community's fears that the department was not color-blind and perhaps even harbored a racist officer.

It's not as if those who lose jobs in city government don't have other options. They can file a lawsuit, appeal to the City Council or even picket in front of City Hall.

Doing those things is no guarantee of success, but they are legitimate means of protest that won't land the person who uses them in jail.

Shifler should be ordered to repay the department for the cost of the investigation. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to compensate the students and Parson-McBean for the stress they felt when they believed someone might kill them, just because of the color of their skin.

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