The former Tulsa, OK, police officer who shot and killed unarmed black motorist Terence Crutcher in 2016 has entered a new phase of her professional law enforcement career: teaching other cops how to “survive” incidents where they shoot other people.
Betty Shelby, who was charged with manslaughter for the roadside killing of Crutcher, is scheduled to begin teaching a class titled, “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident” at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s office on Tuesday. Shelby was acquitted last year; after being reassigned to a desk job within the Tulsa police force, she subsequently took a position with the nearby Rogers County Sheriff’s Department.
Speaking with KTUL in May, Shelby described her course:
I have a class that I teach to officers to give them the tools to survive such events, and it’s a way of surviving financially, how to survive legally, emotionally and physically.... Our life is not the same. It will never be the same again. We have our new normal and that new normal has so many different aspects to it and it’s what we live with.
The grim irony of a white police officer giving pointers on “how to survive legally, emotionally, and physically” after killing an unarmed black man was not lost on many in the community, who showed up the day before her class began to protest Shelby’s return to Tulsa.
“You gotta get another teacher because Betty Shelby, you know, she had her ‘60 Minutes,’ and I remember what she said, ‘I would rather be tried by 12 than carried by six,’” State Representative Regina Goodwin told the Tulsa World during a rally of several dozen people outside the Tulsa Sheriff’s Department on Monday.
“Terence Crutcher didn’t get an opportunity to get that statement,” Goodwin added.
Local activist group We The People Oklahoma joined in the condemnation of Shelby’s class, writing in a statement:
We The People Oklahoma seriously questions both the judgment and motives that the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office would have in allowing Deputy Shelby to direct such a crucial course.
After all, Shelby herself shifted the blame from Crutcher’s death both to police training videos and, shockingly, Crutcher himself.
Although she was ultimately acquitted, jurors cautioned in a letter that they found Shelby wholly unfit to ever serve as a law enforcement officer.
Shelby herself responded to the criticism to KTUL, telling the station in a statement on Monday that she has“faced many challenges that I was unprepared for such as threats to my life by activists groups to loss of pay,” but would nevertheless “not discuss the shooting” during her course. Given that the shooting seems to be the sole reason she is teaching the class in the first place, it’s hard to imagine just what she plans to talk about.
Shelby’s current boss, Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton, pushed back on criticism of the course to the Tulsa World.
“It’s not about opening wounds,” Walton said. “It’s about Betty Shelby teaching something that opens law enforcement’s eyes. If this was taught to the community, I think it would open [their] eyes to what law enforcement has to endure.”
Understandably, members of the community feel differently.
“It is called ‘surviving the aftermath of a critical incident,’ ” Rep. Goodwin told Tulsa World. “And I think the words are real pretty, but the situation is very ugly.”