Betty Jo Shelby, Ex-Tulsa Cop Who Shot Unarmed Black Man, is Teaching Other Police Officers How to “Survive Such an Event”

Betty Jo Shelby
Betty Jo Shelby

She calls it “The Ferguson Effect.”

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.”

Shelby, who is white, was tried last year in a criminal court in Tulsa County. She was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher. But the jury questioned her “judgment as a law enforcement officer.” If less lethal force had been an option, “serious consideration” must be “given to whether she be allowed to return to practicing law enforcement,” said the jury foreman, in a letter the presiding member asked the court to make public to “placate” the media’s desire to interview members of the jury. The Tulsa Police Department pulled her from the streets and reassigned her to a desk job, prompting Shelby to resign. “Sitting behind a desk,” she explained in a statement, “is not for me.”

“I did feel like my career was done,” she told Tulsa World of the dispute over the 2016 shooting, which spurred protests and renewed a national debate over race and policing.

Now, a new debate is underway in Tulsa — a city scarred by the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, a massacre in which white mobs laid waste to a prosperous black neighborhood in one of the most devastating episodes in the history of American race relations.

The debate asks: What can be learned from a police-involved shooting, and who is entitled to do that teaching?

Shelby is poised to bring her state-approved training course, “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident,” to the city where her own “critical incident” unfolded. Shelby’s scheduled appearance Tuesday at the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has drawn condemnation from local activists, who argue that the former Tulsa officer should not be imparting advice to law enforcement — especially not in the community where she killed the 40-year-old motorist and father of four.

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SOURCE: Isaac Stanley-Becker
The Washington Post