updated 8/8/2006 10:30:56 PM ET 2006-08-09T02:30:56

A former police officer pleaded guilty Tuesday to two civil-rights charges for making anonymous death threats against black school children and Hagerstown’s first black city council member.

Jeffrey S. Shifler, 42, entered the pleas in federal court in Baltimore and faces up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines at his Dec. 8 sentencing.

“When a law enforcement officer makes racist threats against government officials and school students, it is a threat to the very fabric of our society,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said.

Shifler was working for the Boonsboro Police Department when he made a series of calls to Hagerstown school officials and threatened to shoot black students, according to court records. The calls prompted several school lockdowns.

On Jan. 31, Shifler left an anonymous voice message at the home of Hagerstown City Council member Alesia Parson-McBean, claiming to represent the Ku Klux Klan and threatening to burn her house. He had sent her racially charged letters in 2004 on the letterhead of the Hagerstown Police Department, where he worked at the time.

Shifler, of Maugansville, Md., pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of interfering with public-school attendance and interfering with housing in connection with the threats against the students and Parons-McBean.

Parson-McBean didn’t immediately return telephone calls seeking her reaction to the pleas. In February, she called the threats “devastating” and “bone-chilling.”

Deputy Federal Public Defender Joseph A. Balter, who represented Shifler, declined to comment on his client’s motive, but said he is “deeply sorry about the pain that he caused to the victims.”

According to a criminal complaint filed in February, the threats began in 2004 after Shifler, a 16-year veteran of the Hagerstown police force, was fired for falsifying payroll records.

He was fired from the Boonsboro Police Department after the federal charges were filed.

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