A Cincinnati Police officer threatened to punch a minor in the face and said he'd lie about it in court so the juvenile would be convicted instead. Confronted by internal investigators with a secretly recorded tape of the threat, the officer refused to answer questions and was arrested on a charge of menacing.
Although convicted of a reduced charge, Officer Jeffrey Shari is still on the police force. Furthermore, it appears the conviction will be wiped from his criminal record in a hurry.
At 2:30 a.m. April 22, 2006, Shari was on duty in District 4. Even though he was assigned to an area in Carthage referred to as Beat 6, he was arrested for a confrontation in an area that is part of Beat 4, where he threatened Brian Hatfield, 17. The menacing charge was reduced to a minor misdemeanor of disorderly conduct, and Shari was convicted Oct. 28, 2006 after pleading "no contest."
Hatfield was with a friend the night of the incident, and both recorded the encounter with Shari on their cell phones. The recordings cut in and out, but a transcript provided by the police department's Internal Investigations Section captures the highlights.
The two young men, questioned about being out so late, told the officer they were on their way home.
"I don't give a flying fuck where you're headed," Shari replied. "I am the wrong motherfucker to get ignorant with. Like I told him, I'll punch you dead in the face; and when we get to court, I'll say you swung on me first. And I guarantee the judge is going to believe me over you, right?"
Municipal Court Judge Nadine Allen found Shari guilty of disorderly conduct. She waived a fine of $15 and charged him $85 in court costs — which the county has sent to collections for non-payment.
'A financial decision'
The case started with a complaint lodged by Hatfield's mother, Patsy Hatfield, because her son was a minor at the time of the incident. The complaint that launched the internal investigation says, "Mr. Jeffrey Shari did approach my son and threatened to punch him in the face and used a lot of profanity."
Patsy Hatfield did not respond to a request for an interview. Shari refused to comment.
Sgt. Michael John of the Internal Investigations Section says the voice on the recording was never verified as Shari's but it was included as evidence in the menacing charge against him.
Attorney Mike Allen, the former county prosecutor, represents Shari. He dismisses the charge against his client as unfounded.
"I don't want to be critical of Internal Affairs," Allen says. "However, I think it's debatable whether or not this charge should have been brought against Officer Shari in the first place. It's my understanding that this is an officer with an unblemished record. He's been a good police officer.
"I think you need to think long and hard before you charge a veteran police officer, that person, with a criminal offense. You have to think long and hard before you jam a guy up to where he has to give up his gun and his badge. He's placed in an assignment that is not a preferable assignment."
The police department suspended Shari's police powers May 22, 2006, and assigned him to the Telephone Crime Reporting Unit pending resolution of the criminal charge. Allen, a former Cincinnati cop, says communications is "the penalty box" in the police department. This is why Shari chose to plead no contest, according to Allen.
"I think, all things being equal, Officer Shari would have liked to fight this case, but what happened was, because his police powers were taken away from him, he was unable to work overtime details, and he was losing a lot of money because of that," Allen says. "After negotiating with the prosecutor, we made the decision that it would be in his best interest to plead to this minor misdemeanor and have it expunged. It was a financial decision on his part."
Shari had his police powers restored Nov. 10, 2006. A reprimand for failure of good behavior was placed in his personnel file with a note from Lt. John Rees, dated Nov. 25.
"This notice is given to you with the hope that you will improve your conduct and performance," the note says. "If further discussions of your performance will help, I will be glad to meet with you."
A reprimand was presented at an administrative insight hearing, according to Sgt. John. Described as "like a counseling session," a record of the hearing will be added to Shari's personnel file, John said. While officers who demonstrate a need for a refresher course can be sent to the police academy, Shari wasn't given any additional training.
Hired by the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) in 1995, Shari formerly served with the Air Force as a law enforcement specialist, patrolman and on bike patrol. In District 4 he is responsible for helping organize bike patrols, including the training of officers from Cincinnati and other police departments.
In a 2003 review of Shari's performance, Officer Jeffrey Battison praised Shari as "a very knowledgeable officer who uses sounds judgment." However, a year later Lt. John P. Kraft included a note in Shari's review that raises another point about Shari's judgment.
"The one area I believe officer Shari needs improvement involved an off-duty training accident," Kraft wrote. "A student was injured during a training seminar as a direct result of poor direction from Officer Shari. In addition, Officer Shari did not have an outside work permit to conduct the training, leaving the department in a precarious situation. This incident demonstrated poor judgment."
Unlike his personnel file, Shari will be able to wipe his criminal record clean.
Judge Allen says a minor misdemeanor isn't considered a conviction under Ohio expungement rules, so Shari can have his record cleared at any time. Allen says she doesn't remember the case but encourages the public to get their records expunged whenever possible.
Mike Allen — no relation to the judge — says he'll file for removal of the record of Shari's conviction.
"Obviously that's an option that we have, and we're going to pursue that option to have it expunged," Allen says. "Technically it's called 'sealing of record.' What it means is, if a record is expunged or sealed, it's held as if it never happened. The only people who are eligible for expungement are first offenders under the revised code."
Ohio law requires offenders convicted of a misdemeanor, such as menacing, to wait one year before having a conviction expunged — unlike the minor misdemeanor Shari pleaded to under the deal with prosecutors.
"Police officers have a very difficult job," Allen says. "It's more difficult now than ever. They're under intense scrutiny, and I think sometimes maybe police administrators overreact when citizens complain. That's not to say that you shouldn't have oversight. You should. That's not to say that the complaints shouldn't be investigated. They should. But I think there ought to be a little bit of discretion whether to decide to charge a police officer with a criminal offense." ©