Police Conference Caves To Activists, Cancels Deputy Betty Shelby's Talk
Baton Rouge, LA – A police association removed a speaker from their upcoming conference agenda after receiving backlash from groups hostile to law enforcement.
The former Tulsa police officer who was acquitted of manslaughter in the 2016 shooting death of a PCP-fueled suspect was scheduled to speak at the upcoming Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association (SEHIA) conference.
The SEHIA rescinded Roger County Deputy Betty Shelby’s invitation on Sunday, The Advocate reported.
“We realize now there are people around the country who do not understand why we would present this case or how our investigators could learn and benefit from hearing the case presentation which led to [the officer’s] arrest, prosecution, and ultimate acquittal,” the SEHIA said in a press release.
Then-Tulsa Officer Shelby was headed to an unrelated domestic violence call on Sep. 16, 2016, when she came across 40-year-old Terence Crutcher standing next to his SUV in the middle of the road, CNN reported.
Officer Shelby stopped to ask him if the vehicle belonged to him, but Crutcher did not respond and began walking towards her with his hands stuffed in his pockets.
"He had a very hollow look in his face, kind of a thousand-yard stare, so to speak, and would not communicate,” Officer Shelby’s attorney, Scott Wood, told CNN at the time.
The officer repeatedly asked him to keep his hands visible, and Crutcher complied intermittently before he walked to the back of her patrol car and shoved his hands in his pockets yet again.
Officer Shelby suspected he was under the influence of something due to his behavior, and radioed for backup before she drew her weapon and ordered Crutcher to get on his knees.
Crutcher ignored her, and walked back to his SUV as additional officers arrived at the scene.
"She was yelling at him to stop, for probably at least 10 to 15 seconds,” Wood explained. “He gets to the window of the SUV, and has his hands in the air, looks at them ... and his left hand goes into the window.”
Officer Shelby said she believed Crutcher was reaching for a weapon, so she fired her duty weapon, killing him.
Investigators later recovered PCP from Crutcher’s vehicle, but did not find a gun.
Officer Shelby was charged by District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler just six days after the shooting, despite the investigation just getting started and a homicide detective telling him that there wasn’t enough evidence. Charges were filed before Kunzweiler had the autopsy or investigation report.
Prior to the trial, there had been claims that Crutcher’s window was actually closed. During the trial, evidence proved that the window was down and the prosecution had to concede the point and that Crutcher was reaching in at the time he was shot.
She was acquitted by a jury in 2017.
"The jury concluded that any officer put in that situation at that exact moment and regardless of the skin color, gender or size of the suspect, would have performed the same way, which is in accordance with their law enforcement training," the jury foreman wrote, according to NBC News.
“[The officer-involved shooting was] unfortunate and tragic, but justifiable due to the actions of the suspect,” the foreman added.
Officer Shelby was sidelined by her department, and placed on permanent desk duty for her safety.
She finally resigned, writing in her resignation, "It is with a heavy heart that I have made the following decision. Effective August 3, 2017, I will resign from the Tulsa Police Department. Since being reinstated, I have found that sitting behind a desk, isolated from all of my fellow officers and the citizens of Tulsa, is just not for me."
In August of 2017, the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office in Oklahoma hired the former officer as an active reserve deputy, Tulsa World reported. Six months later, she started working as a full-time deputy.
Deputy Shelby was scheduled to speak about “Surviving the Aftermath of a Critical Incident” during the SEHIA’s 2018 conference, The Advocate reported.
“We think this is an opportunity for law enforcement officers to learn the ramifications of the use of lethal force and make sound decision to do so only when necessary to save their own lives and the lives of the citizens in the communities they are sworn to protect,” the SEHIA said in a statement.
“She was asked to present on what has happened to her since the homicide of Terence Crutcher so other officers will understand the aftermath of their decisions and the effect on their lives and the lives of others,” the statement read.
On Friday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational fund sent a letter to the SEHIA, demanding that they rescind Deputy Shelby’s invitation to speak at the conference, The Advocate reported.
"Deputy Shelby is not a victim of Mr. Crutcher's homicide. The late Mr. Crutcher and his survivors are the victims," the letter read. "Deputy Shelby's subsequent acquittal on manslaughter charges is not an exoneration of her decision to kill an unarmed man."
“Allowing these officers to now share with a national audience of law enforcement personnel how Deputy Shelby ‘survived’ the consequences of a homicide that she committed is inconsistent with the purported work of SEHIA members – pursuing justice for homicide victims and their families,” the NAACP letter continued.
“Allowing Deputy Shelby to share her self-centered experience in a critical incident will underscore that killing Black residents does not matter to law enforcement - a notion that SEHIA should not endorse,” the letter said.
The association caved to the activists' demands.
SEHIA noted that they opted to rescind Deputy Shelby’s invitation after “careful consideration of all perspectives of national, state and local leaders,” including local law enforcement, The Advocate reported.
"We understand this community has taken strides to heal its relationship with local police and we want to support those efforts," the SEHIA said. "We appreciate the opportunity to be here and we want to be respectful to every city our conference visits."
Approximately 350 investigators were expected to attend the conference, which began on Monday in downtown Baton Rouge.