Officer Who Killed Unarmed Man Now Teaching Officers How To Go About The Difficult Business Of Being Alive

from the POLICE-STATE-UNIVERSITY dept

If a cop shoots an unarmed citizen, nothing much happens to the cop. Maybe some paid vacation. Maybe a desk stint. Maybe an internal investigation will deliver a “no policy violated” determination months down the road. Maybe a DA will make a disinterested presentation to an uninterested grand jury and shrug about how no charges will be forthcoming. Sometimes cops quit rather than face investigations. Sometimes cops quit rather than get fired. Every so often, a cop does time, but it’s such a rarity it’s viewed as breathtaking turn of events.

What no one really expects from this predictable life cycle is someone upcycling their homicide into an instructional career. That’s what former Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby is doing. Two years ago, Shelby shot an unarmed Terence Crutcher during a traffic stop, rationalizing the shooting by claiming he was exhibiting “zombie-like behavior.” Can’t have zombies without a corpse, so Shelby shot Crutcher, killing him. Another officer on the scene only felt the need to deploy a taser, making Shelby’s stated fear much more subjective than objective. The other three officers did not open fire or deploy their tasers.

Unlike a lot of cops, Shelby was actually tried for first-degree manslaughter. She was acquitted before quitting the Tulsa PD rather than take a desk job. She has since returned to law enforcement as a Sheriff’s deputy in Rogers County (OK) and is apparently focusing some energy on an extremely dubious sideline.

Two years after she fatally shot an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Betty Jo Shelby, now a police officer in an adjacent county, is teaching a course on how to “survive such events” — legally, emotionally and physically. The course, as she explained it to a local ABC affiliate, equips officers to withstand the effect — named for the Missouri city convulsed by the 2014 shooting of a black teenager — “when a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion.”

Ah, I see some of the most powerful government employees in the nation will be receiving instruction on how to be better victims. I guess being more alive than the bullet-filled decedent just doesn’t cut it anymore. And let’s not forget the all-powerful “court of public opinion,” which is unable to convict officers for manslaughter (or other criminal charges), much less ensure officers are held accountable for questionable force deployments.

The value of the class is likely equal to its entry fee:

According to a state website, the training, which is certified by the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, “will describe some of the challenges in dealing with the aftermath of a critical incident such as Officer Involved Shooting. Participants will be exposed to many of the legal, financial, physical, and emotional challenges which may result from a critical incident.” The free course lasts four hours, including two “Mental Health Hours.”

Some of this information may be useful, but it’s probably best imparted by lawyers, therapists, financial advisors, and other professionals with a bit more distance between them and the killing of an unarmed man. As if the whole thing weren’t tone deaf enough, Deputy Shelby is bringing her class to Tulsa — the city that employed her when she killed Terence Crutcher.

Shelby is being met with protests from locals who aren’t interested in having a killer cop pass on her “wisdom” to her former coworkers. They have a point. Shelby shouldn’t really be instructing other officers in anything, much less doing so in the same city where her training apparently failed her. While it was determined Crutcher was under the influence when he was shot (possibly explaining the “zombie-like” behavior), he was moving away from Shelby at a zombie-like pace only deemed threatening enough for a taser deployment by another officer at the scene.

After an acquittal and new job, Shelby is taking her cross from PD to PD to tell officers how they, too, can go about the difficult job of living after taking that option away from others. That anyone’s willing to host this is an indictment of those agencies. That the one that put her on desk duty post-shooting would do so — knowing it would have this effect on locals and the survivors of Terence Crutcher — is simply appalling.

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Comments on “Officer Who Killed Unarmed Man Now Teaching Officers How To Go About The Difficult Business Of Being Alive”

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41 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

“when a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion.”

What would a reasonable person expect from the public after having shot and killed an unarmed person?

Did the officer expect to be greeted with a ticker tape parade?

In order to survive the brutal attack by the public the officer needed help .. why not provide help before they kill unnecessarily?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I hate to think that our LEOs are that limited in their response to stressful situations. There are always alternatives.

If one were to set about hiring LEOs based upon characteristics that best suited the duties, one of the desired characteristics would be the ability to make appropriate choices in the line of fire even when the suspect is unarmed. Do we really need to be tasing children and little old ladies? Come on, that cop did not have to draw the weapon as there were plenty of options available, what are we paying these people for and does that make us complicit?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Two years ago, Shelby shot an unarmed Terence Crutcher during a traffic stop, rationalizing the shooting by claiming he was exhibiting "zombie-like behavior." Can’t have zombies without a corpse, so Shelby shot Crutcher, killing him. Another officer on the scene only felt the need to deploy a taser, making Shelby’s stated fear much more subjective than objective. The other three officers did not open fire or deploy their tasers.

Five officers on the scene, three of which didn’t consider him enough of a threat to deploy taser or gun, slowly moving away from them… oh yeah, he was clearly a threat to everyone around him, a ticking time bomb that was thankfully defused via bullet before he could take out a city block or two.

As you yourself noted, ‘choose your causes carefully’.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What would a reasonable person expect from the public after having shot and killed an unarmed person?

Did the officer expect to be greeted with a ticker tape parade?

Obviously not, everyone knows poor police officers are a severely discriminated against minority group! That’s why brave politicians had to stand up for them in some states and pass blue hate crime protection laws for these poor officers!

Other minority groups have to deal with being arrested more frequently, and given harsher sentences for the same crimes as non-minorities. Some of them even have to deal with openly racist rhetoric by some of our politicians who demonize them and their communities on a regular basis, calling them a crime filled hell hole. Some of them were violently beaten for daring to protest for equal rights. Some of them were violently murdered. But poor cops like Shelby have to suffer an even greater injustice, being hated for shooting an unarmed civilian and getting away with it!

When will big anti-police meanies stop discriminating against these poor blues who only murdered some random unarmed person they pulled over?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yup .. and to add to this disgusting list of inhumanity it the fact that a significant percentage of incarcerated prisoners are actually innocent of the charges against them. Plea bargaining is a disaster for the public while being a boon for the wealthy investors in the private prison industry who is not at all concerned about locking up innocent people.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’re more than 9 times more likely to get killed by the police than a Terrorist. Far more Unarmed people are being killed by the police than the police.

The police these days will shoot at a shadow. Because they are so afraid and jumpy, they Shoot first and cover up later. They know they can pretty much get away with MURDER!!!

Why is the GUN first thing pulled for so many? I’d rather get beat up by a stick then killed by the gun. They have their billy Club. They have their Taser. Hell, there’s generally more than 1 of them. Yet somehow, with no gun in site and more than one cop, the person who is no threat is shot and killed anyway.

The Police are the Biggest GANG in this country. The Blue Line Gang. They have their own Flag. They are apart from the American citizens of this country. They make up LIES to get you to do what they want. There are no good ones. When the so-called good ones stand there and do nothing to stop it and then cover for the bad ones. They are in fact no better than the Tyrant, Criminal thugs that they are protecting.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Damn

The part I find fascinating/disgusting is that not only are other police departments willing to hire officers with such reputations/histories of bad behavior, but put them into positions where they will have impact/infect other officers. And then the department that was responsible for/condoned the original bad behavior (even if the DA failed to make the case they should have made easily) invites her over as an expert/vector to spread an anti public spew of invective.

Good to see the public expressing their views on the subject in Tulsa.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Next week's course: 'Why do people not trust and/or like us?'

Participants will be exposed to many of the legal, financial, physical, and emotional challenges which may result from a critical incident.”

Which would be, in order:

1) None, if you’ve got a badge the legal system has a very low interest in holding you accountable for basically anything.

2) None, the department will cover it even if, by some miracle, a cop is found guilty.

3) None. Seriously, ‘physical’ challenges from shooting someone? Unless they strain their wrist from pulling their gun too fast, or from shooting too much, not much to cause physical challenges there.

4) I’d like to hope those would be significant, that killing someone would result in a need for some serious counciling, yet given their quip about how the course is meant to equip those taking it to deal with being ‘victimized’ by ‘anti-police groups’ and ‘tried in the court of public opinion’ I can’t help but suspect that that part of the course is focused on those ’emotional challenges’, rather than ‘you just killed someone, here’s a basic level course on how to cope with that starting with a list of licensed therapists/councilors.’

Hardly a wonder it’s only four hours, there’s barely anything to cover.

David says:

Foreign enemy combatants are safer.

That sounds strange, but at least foreign enemy combatants are protected by the rules of engagement. In most circumstances, our military will not fire until fired upon. Local police officers have no such rules. “I was afraid” is pretty much a get-out-of-jail free card – and one exclusive to LEO’s (which all their training) but not available to the general public.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“when a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion.”

Oh you poor things…

You mean how like amazingly they manage to ‘leak’ the victims entire criminal history to the media before they release the officers name?

You mean how like they are described as demons, zombies, super powers only ever seen in anime?

You mean how like they get days to review their statements & memorize their lines?? (which seems silly since the only witness who might offer a different viewpoint is DEAD).

You mean how like in Baltimore officers carried toy weapons to drop on the scenes of shootings to create a justification for them executing an unarmed person?

You mean how like a bodycam caught an officer inventing evidence to submit to the court & it was played off as a one off mistake?

You mean how like the police go to the wrong house & murder the home owner who is awoken to heavily armed unidentified people breaking into the house pointing weapons at them & tries to defend himself?

You mean how like without even the tiny fig leaf of the ‘field tests’ (which everyone but cops seem to know is flawed) the police like to steal property from people never charged with an actual crime?

You mean how like they take millions in military gear & decide that serving a warrant for a parking violation required a predawn no knock raid with the Bearcat?

You mean how like spokespeople and unions always claim there is more than we saw with our own eyes & to not rush to judgement but are quick to push the public to judge the child playing in the park with a toy gun they murdered?

You mean how like a simple felony charge stays with a person well after their debt to society has been repaid & yet there can’t be a list of officers fired or who quit before charges were filed can show up and be hired again, over and over and over?

You mean like how the cop who was busy texting who ran down a bicyclist, ON HD VIDEO & ADMITTED HE WASN’T LOOKING, gets a time out with pay while it has to be investigated to make sure he might possibly be at fault?

You mean like how multiple men were sodomized in NYC by police & no other officer thought to mention it happened & tried to support narratives the victim did it to themselves?

You mean how like some guards boiled a man to death and got no charges?

You mean how like a searched, cuffed suspect managed to produce a weapon from a secret pocket dimension, got his arms infront of him to shoot himself in the face & then as he was dying put his arms back behind himself?

You mean how like there won’t be charges for the cops who watched a woman die a horrible death from withdrawal & violated every duty of care & rule about checking on detainees??

Better headline…

Officer who thought she was stopping a zombie outbreak by shooting man in the back as he moved away from her, uses her police halo to avoid charges & become the leading voice of how to live with yourself when the public looks at the evidence & wonders how the fuck you got off.

tom (profile) says:

Before folks feel sorry for Mr Crutcher, keep in mind that the autopsy results showed ‘ “acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication” at the time of the shooting’. Plus a presence of TCP, which is reportedly worse the PCP. This pretty much means that Mr Crutcher, prior to parking his van in the middle of the highway and starting his walkabout, had likely put the lives of hundreds or thousands of drivers and pedestrians at risk during his driving while impaired. The family admitted he had a history of drug use and abuse. Sorry to disappoint, but I am glad this danger is no longer driving the roads while high.

Jane E (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree to a point but if the fact is that he was moving AWAY from her and all other officers didn’t feel the need to shoot, then it was probable that he could have been taken into custody without incident. There are thousands of drunk drivers on the road every day who are taken into custody and yes, a few that aren’t stopped and end up hurting or killing someone. So should we shoot every drunk driver once they are pulled over?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Crime: Drug use. Sentence: Summary Execution

I don’t care if they were tripping on every drug in existence, they weren’t putting the lives of hundreds or thousands in danger while they were slowly walking away from the one who executed them(or before, seriously, do you somehow think that PCP/TCP turns people into literal walking bombs, able to take out entire city blocks?), so the idea that the murdered man somehow ‘had it coming’, or the one who killed them ‘had no choice’ is complete and utter bullshit.

Using drugs is not a ‘kill on sight’ crime. Using drugs multiple times is still not a ‘kill on sight’ crime. That you seem to think it is in that they were justified in executing him simply for being drugged up and having a history of it does not leave you looking in any way good, and I would argue that I’d much rather have some drugged up zombie around than someone who thinks that drug use should carry a death sentence.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In that case, it’s good that the officer was there to pass judgment and offer a summary execution. Just think about how much time and money has been saved by not arresting the guy and giving him an actual trial where he’s presented with evidence and has a chance to defend himself in front of a judge.
Because obviously it’s better to shoot the guy than hope he might learn his lesson after getting arrested and going on trial. (That’s sarcasm by the way.)

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Before folks feel sorry for Mr Crutcher, keep in mind that the autopsy results showed ‘ "acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication" at the time of the shooting’."

So did the officer make the informed decision that fatally shooting him was the best and only response after reading the autopsy report? Oh wait, probably not…

Your point is irrelevant because the officer’s own words ("zombie-like behavior") don’t describe someone dangerous at the time of the shooting. Five officers with Tasers should have been able to physically subdue and restrain him.

"This pretty much means that Mr Crutcher, prior to parking his van in the middle of the highway and starting his walkabout, had likely put the lives of hundreds or thousands of drivers and pedestrians at risk during his driving while impaired."

Did I miss the news that driving while impaired had become a capital offence? And even you must know your argument is weak when you have to write nonsense like "hundreds or thousands of drivers and pedestrians" in an attempt to justify such an excessive response.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Did I miss the news that driving while impaired had become a capital offence?

Even if it was that would still not justify on-the-spot execution. Police are there to arrest and hold people short-term for trial. It’s up to judges to decide the punishment for crimes after a trial to demonstrate guilt.

As much as some of them may seem to want otherwise police are not Judges in the sense of Judge Dredd(and I hesitate to even make that comparison because as I understand it one of his defining characteristics is an iron-clad devotion to the law), able to act as judge, jury and executioner.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“It’s up to judges to decide the punishment for crimes after a trial to demonstrate guilt.”

…and even then it’s proven that they can still order the punishment for innocent people. Trusting a beat cop with the power of execution in the heat of the moment, with any indiscretion waved away with “well he deserved it anyway because X” is rather disturbing and can never end well.

“As much as some of them may seem to want otherwise police are not Judges in the sense of Judge Dredd”

I sometimes think that we may need to stop writing satire and political speculative fiction. Modern right-wingers in the US seem to think that works like Dredd, A Modest Proposal, A Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 were instruction manuals, not exaggerated cautionary tales.

Oblate (profile) says:

Actually a great idea but for the wrong audience

CLEET, “will describe some of the challenges in dealing with the aftermath of a critical incident such as Officer Involved Shooting. Participants will be exposed to many of the legal, financial, physical, and emotional challenges which may result from a critical incident.”

Maybe if they made all police officers take this course BEFORE they shot someone there would be fewer questionable shootings?

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