Betty Shelby is a white Oklahoma officer who was acquitted of manslaughter in 2016 after the fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American man. She is now teaching a class to other sheriff deputies about facing the challenges of dealing with what she calls the “aftermath of a critical incident” but critics are calling the class distasteful.
According to Yahoo! News, Shelby said, “I talk about the challenges that I face after my critical incident; the challenges that my husband and I were not prepared for. So I take what I learned and developed what I call tools and I pass that on to other officers so maybe they can be better prepared to deal with a critical incident.”
Despite protests, Shelby went ahead with the class which is called “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident.” The class was attended by about two dozen deputies from the Tulsa County sheriff’s department.
According to Shelby, a “critical incident” doesn’t solely refer to a shooting incident. It can be any event that tests the limits of an officer’s coping skills, like a severe car accident or a hostage situation.
Shelby was arrested and charged two years ago with first-degree manslaughter for the death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher. She came upon an SUV idling in the middle of a two-lane road and saw Crutcher walking toward the vehicle. Helicopter and dashcam footage showed him with his hands in the air while Shelby and other officers approached him with their guns. In the video, he can be seen lowering his hands. Then it seems he attempts to reach into the SUV. At that point Shelby opened fire, killing him.
CNN reports that authorities determined no weapons were found on Crutcher or in the SUV. Shelby went to trial and was acquitted in August 2017, which outraged many people including African-American leaders in Tulsa.
A Facebook post by Aware Tulsa, a group that coordinated the protest in front of the courthouse in downtown Tulsa, stated, “We believe the choice to have Betty Shelby lead a class on ‘how to survive the aftermath of a critical incident’ lacks empathy, is disrespectful to the Crutcher Family, and is intentionally divisive.”
But Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton says, “It’s not about tactics. It’s not about when to shoot, when not to shoot. It’s about what she endured, what her family went through for the next eight months after her critical incident.”
According to Shelby, “There was a moment when I was told ‘I’ll never be in law enforcement again, even if I win this case.” However, after her acquittal, she returned to the Tulsa police force with back pay. She is now employed as sheriff’s deputy in nearby Rogers County.