This Is The Last Time We Want To Talk About Killer Cop Betty Shelby
Remember Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby? She shot an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, for bullshit reasons in 2016 (seriously, we've been through this already). The nation has a high tolerance for bullshit when it comes to cops (or random white guys) killing black people for existing, which last time I checked was only a D felony not a capital offense. But it seemed for a moment that Crutcher's killing had crossed a line in the bullshit (I'm going to end this metaphor now). In a shock to the unaccountable law enforcement system, Shelby was actually charged with manslaughter on account of having slaughtered a man.
However, that was just the second level in the "No justice No Peace" video game. You'll recall this no-real-jeopardy round from the trials of the officer who killed Philando Castile and the cops who had to sit back and watch while Freddie Gray "murdered" himself. Shelby was acquitted of manslaughter in May of 2017. She didn't go home with a Cadillac but she did receive $35,000 in back pay. Crutcher remained dead. He chose the door with the scary "Tic-Tac-Dough" dragon behind it.
You'd think Shelby would just take the blood money and run, but no, she's decided to "Son of Sam" herself to a second career in profiting off the suffering of black people, which is arguably America's true "oldest profession."
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."
That's right. Shelby non-provocatively alludes to the shooting death of Michael Brown, whose killer suffered no longterm legal trauma, whereas Brown is still legally dead. This loathsome creature believes cops are "victimized by anti-police groups," as if they're the ones responsible for all the fuss when an officer of the state kills an unarmed black person. Lady, I know Black Lives Matter was founded only five years ago, but the concept has been around for at least twice that long. When you kill someone like a dog, the annoying dead body that got blood on your shoes also has family and friends that care about them like a person ... or also a dog.
Shelby and every other officer who gets off after killing someone obviously wasn't tried in the "court of public opinion" because they were freed despite the public's actual opinion. Why do cops believe they're victims of mob justice just because there's an actual process involved when they shoot a citizen? It's like they just want to be taken for an ice cream afterward.
C'mon, Shelby's a police officer. She should know that people have died in jail before they even got to a trial. Others lose their jobs and apartments waiting for trial. She's part of that protected class where you can shoot someone on video, get off, and actually get back pay and your job back. Try getting your job back at McDonald's after you've been tried for manslaughter. "This ain't Arby's, dude. We make Happy Meals here." Shelby even had her record expunged, so she can legally claim the trial never happened at all. Not even Robert De Niro can erase The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle from film history.
After Shelby's acquittal, the Tulsa Police Department reassigned her to desk duty because it was slightly possible she sucks at her job, but just "sitting behind a desk," Shelby claimed, "wasn't for [her]." I guess she preferred to be sitting behind a desk shooting black people. That's hard to manage because you have to convince black people to come all the way over to your desk on their own time, which is kind of a hassle, so she resigned. She's now working in a different county -- someplace that could benefit from a course on how black people can "survive" encounters with cops like Shelby.
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.
OK, you know, I'm kinda done talking about Shelby right now. This week also marks the 63rd anniversary of Emmett Till's lynching. Had he lived, Till would be just 77. That's young enough to be called "Junior" in the US Senate. There's a "shadow generation" of black men like Till, who, as with Terence Crutcher, were killed far too soon and with no sense of remorse. They watch over us still, though. It's their spirits that demand we continue to seek justice, even when it's far too often denied.
When Till was murdered, the folks whose descendants would later march with Black Lives Matter were also accused of the same "overreach" and mob mentality that Shelby now decries.
"To read the inflammatory statements from Negro leaders of the North, one would suppose that young Emmett Till was the victim of a gigantic conspiracy involving every white person in our state," wrote a columnist in Mississippi's paper of record, The Clarion-Ledger, under the headline, "Our State A Target for Hate Campaign."
The irony is how true this statement was. Till, like Crutcher, Gray, and Castille, was a victim of the "conspiracy" that preserves a particular racial hierarchy. It's a conspiracy that can twist someone's soul so grotesquely that a police officer can believe the inconvenience she's experienced after the death she caused is in any way equal to the loss of that human being's life.
Fortunately, someone who won't be free to take Shelby's "dancing the Macarena on the grave of your victims" class is former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver. He was convicted Tuesday of murder for the shooting of unarmed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards as he left a party with his brothers and two friends in April 2017. Edwards joins Emmett Till and Tamir Rice in the "shadow generation" but at least Edwards can offer them a rare glimmer of justice.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).