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.