Image: AP

The Washington Post reports that Betty Jo Shelby, a police officer who in 2016 shot and killed an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is now teaching a course on how to deal with what she describes as “when a police officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion.”

It’s a cruel but predictable reframing of nationwide protests in response to lethal police violence against black men, women, and children. But it’s also the dominant political narrative of the right, which has been further solidified by a bipartisan wave of so-called Blue Lives Matter bills in Congress and at the state level.

“I have a class that I teach to officers to give them the tools to survive such events,” Shelby told local ABC affiliate KTUL. “It’s a way of surviving financially, legally, emotionally, and physically.”

The classes are free and last four hours, two of which are dedicated to “mental health hours.”

Last year, Shelby was acquitted on charges of first degree manslaughter in the shooting death of 40-year-old Terence Crutcher. But the jury still questioned her judgement when she decided to shoot the father of four rather than using a stun gun like her partner did, and she was reassigned to desk duty. Shelby felt ostracized and soon resigned. She took up quilting and raised her grandson. But her time away from the force was short lived: she is now a police officer in an adjacent county. 

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In response to the course, protesters have rallied in front of a Tulsa courthouse holding “Ban Betty” signs, but this ire is falling on deaf ears. Shelby’s class is set to continue as scheduled, and she’s defending herself from a very angry peanut gallery.

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Marq Lewis, the founder of the community organizing and government watchdog group, We the People Oklahoma, said the class newly highlights the injustice of the incident, making the police officer out to be the victim when it was Crutcher who did not survive the encounter, robbing him of any capacity to describe its fallout. A protest Monday outside the county courthouse condemned Shelby’s planned appearance. Signs urged, “Ban Betty.”

“It’s one more indication that Betty Shelby has been rewarded while Terence Crutcher’s children are suffering still,” Lewis said in an interview with The Washington Post. “They don’t have anyone going around the state talking about their experiences.”

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Shelby released the following statement concerning her fitness to teach this course:

A critical incident is an event that happens to someone that will test the limits of their coping skills. I faced many challenges that I was unprepared for such as threats to my life by activists groups to loss of pay. 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. My class is not about the shooting and I do not discuss the shooting.

A course to teach police officers how to be less trigger happy in the presence of black people must be pending.

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Read the rest of the story at the Washington Post.