Jaws dropped this week, when news broke that the former Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer acquitted after killing Terence Crutcher is now teaching a class on how to “survive” officer-involved shootings.
This tone deaf and move understandably drew sharp criticism from both community and the victim’s family.
Wednesday, former TPD officer Betty Shelby – who was acquitted in 2017 for fatally shooting the 40-year-old, unarmed Crutcher the year prior – went on Good Morning America to defend her choice to teach a course on “surviving the aftermath” of her ordeal.
“I talk about the challenges that I face after my critical incident; the challenges that my husband and I were not prepared for,” Shelby told GMA in an exclusive interview.
“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.”
NBC affiliate KJRH reported that Shelby’s class drew protests Monday from local activists who were holding signs that said, #BanBetty and Crutcher’s family, who convened outside the courthouse where it was scheduled to be held.
Despite the vocal backlash, Shelby, now a sheriff’s deputy, went ahead and began teaching her class, “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident,” on Tuesday as scheduled. A course that she says she is an unpaid, volunteer opportunity.
The 44-year-old also made a point to explain that a “critical incident” does not solely refer to an officer-involved shooting, but can also be an event that simply “tests the limits of their coping skills.”
“It can be an officer who responds to a hostage situation or saw a very severe car accident where a child died,” she continued. “It can be an array of things. An officer can see many critical incidents throughout their career. We are well-trained in how to use the tools that we’re given but what we’re not prepared for are the events afterwards.”
“Of course, it’s critical to the person that’s involved but it may affect people differently.”
After being acquitted in 2017, the officer returned to the Tulsa police force with back pay, then became a deputy with the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office, prompting outrage from the African-American leaders in Tulsa.
“There was a moment when I was told ‘I’ll never be in law enforcement again,’ even if I win this case,” Shelby said during the GMA interview, while also explaining that she hope’s the victim’s family focuses more on “healing” rather than being angry at her.
“Let’s start healing … let’s take the steps to heal, and take a step forward in the right direction, and not only do we heal ourselves but our community starts healing,” she said. “And when our community starts healing, then our nation starts healing.”