An officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man is now teaching a course on how to survive the onslaught of media and legal troubles that follow similar incidents. The class has sparked outrage from activists.
Betty Shelby, who was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher in May 2017, has created a course that addresses situations in which “a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion," according to The Washington Post.
Shelby, who now works as an officer in a community adjacent to where the shooting of Crutcher occurred, had been notably admonished by the jury of her case, who questioned her “judgment as a law enforcement officer," and advised her department to seriously reconsider her role as a police officer, according to court documents.
Nonetheless, Shelby's course, titled “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident," has been approved by the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education. In the class, Shelby discusses the emotional and legal ramifications officers face in the wake of police shootings, she told KTLU, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based ABC affiliate. Shelby describes the phenomenon as "The Ferguson Effect," named after the Missouri city in which riots occurred after the shooting of Michael Brown in August 2014. Shelby plans on bringing her course to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where her own "critical incident" unfolded, on Tuesday.
Activists like Marq Lewis, the founder of the community organizing and government watchdog group We the People Oklahoma, are speaking out against the course.
“It’s one more indication that Betty Shelby has been rewarded while Terence Crutcher’s children are suffering still,” Lewis said to The Washington Post. “They don’t have anyone going around the state talking about their experiences.”
Protests outside the county courthouse, where Shelby is scheduled to appear, began Monday. Signs reading "Ban Betty" were held at the demonstrations.
Shelby, however, argued that her class is not about the shooting itself.
“I faced many challenges that I was unprepared for, such as threats to my life by activists groups to loss of pay,” she said, according to The Washington Post. “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.”
[Photo: Tulsa Police Department]