The officer, controversial for her actions, is slated to teach a course on what happens to officers after they have killed someone.
Two years ago, Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby shot and fatally killed Terence Crutcher, a black, unarmed father of four. The incident was met with public outrage and Shelby’s dismissal from the force, although she was later acquitted on the charge of first-degree manslaughter. Now, once again employed as a law enforcement officer in Rogers County, Shelby is teaching a class for fellow officers on how to “survive” the traumatic event of killing a citizen.
The focus of the class is not concerned with the details of the shooting itself, but rather on the impact such an event can have on the police officer in question, both in terms of physical harm and the legal and political ramifications. Shelby has a particular name for the intense public scrutiny that can befall an officer after such a shooting, calling it the “Ferguson effect” in reference to the 2014 slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In a statement to a local ABC affiliate, Shelby offered the following explanation for the necessity of her class.
“I faced many challenges that I was unprepared for, such as threats to my life by activists groups to loss of pay,” she said. “My class is to help others by sharing some of the skills I used to cope with the stress of my critical incident. As law enforcement, we experience many critical incidents throughout our career. These tools that I share are just a few to help them cope with the stress of the critical incidents they have had or will experience.”
Activist groups have taken issue with Shelby’s class, criticizing what they believe is a tone deaf and inaccurate account of the events surrounding Terence Crutcher’s death, as if Shelby is the victim and Crutcher the source of her troubles. Last week, protestors marched outside the county courthouse, holding signs that read “Ban Betty.”
Meanwhile, Marq Lewis, founder and spokesperson for local community action group We the People Oklahoma, called the class “one more indication that Betty Shelby has been rewarded while Terence Crutcher’s children are suffering still.”
According to Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, nobody involved in the class is getting paid. However, it is certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) and counts toward two hours of mental health training mandated by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
Lewis recognized the value of such a course, praising the sheriff’s office for giving officers an opportunity “to address their own mental health from an obviously stressful job,” but believes Shelby is the wrong person to provide such instruction. We the People Oklahoma also urged TCSO to replace the course with a similarly themed but reframed class centered around deescalation.