It’s been three years, and Tulsa has largely failed in the oversight of its police force.
Since the untimely death of Terence Tafford Crutcher Sr. three years ago at the hands of policewoman Betty Shelby, virtually nothing has been changed in terms of Tulsa Police Department’s policies relating to deescalating potentially dangerous situations, readiness training for police or use of deadly force.
On Sept. 16, 2016, 40-year-old Terence Tafford Crutcher Sr. was fatally shot when two police officers, Betty Shelby and Tyler Turnboug, stated that he refused to show his hands. Believing he had a weapon, Turnbough tased Crutcher and Shelby shot him. Crutcher was unarmed. Shelby was found not guilty of manslaughter and was put on paid leave following his death.
Immediately following this tragedy, Tulsans and nationwide outrage let TPD know what needed to be improved on. The Tulsa chapter of the Black Lives Matter held a protest outside of the courthouse and hashtag #TerenceCrutcher on twitter was trending in the United States. Crutcher’s death was one of the many unarmed black people killed by police. His death fueled protests not only in Tulsa, but in states like Texas and Atlanta as well.
The public said to implement body-worn cameras, training cops in how to handle situations and putting policies in place to prevent tragedies like Crutcher’s from repeating. Use of deadly force is what lead to Crutcher’s death and the deaths of many other unarmed African Americans that were shot in situations like Crutcher’s. Although TPD does prohibit the use of deadly force “in a reckless matter” this is an extremely ambiguous line, that can be bent and manipulated to the cop on duty’s discretion. The added policy requires that officers use deescalation tactics or alternatives to higher levels of force whenever possible and appropriate.
Even if this is a step in the right direction, it is also a very vague policy addition. Training in situations like Crutcher’s could’ve prevented his death, but the addition of a singular vague policy three years later isn’t near enough what needs to happen. Police officers need to have proper training, improved cultural awareness and extensive deescalation tactics with training in use of the different types of force. With an addition of policies that restrict chokeholds, the method of over excessive force that caused Eric Garner’s death, require officers to give verbal warnings before using force, limits the kinds of force police officers are allowed to use and require officers to stop colleagues from exercising excessive force. Terence Crutcher can never get his life back, but with the addition of more appropriate policies we can prevent other innocent lives from being lost.