A jury has decided Officer Betty Shelby was justified in shooting Terence Crutcher, an unarmed man, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But, what I don’t understand is how they came to that verdict when it’s unclear why she perceived a threat when the other more experience officers around her did not?
After all, she is trained to asses situations. She claims she opened fire on a man with hands in the air, his back turned and who was walking away and not advancing towards her because she thought he had a gun. Why was she the only one at the scene who thought that? Why can’t we admit that perhaps the sight of a large black man, far bigger than herself, who was not obedient was enough of a threat for her to kill?
When I was young, I was taught to respect police officers, to answer their questions respectful and follow their instructions. If I did, I’d be just fine. I believed that because my uncle John was a career officer and my father had attended the police academy. I figured neither of them would give me bad advice about safety. Yet, a string of events that have made headlines have made me question this advice.
The acquittal of Officer Shelby shakes the foundation of everything I thought I knew about police survival. Now, I can only hope that by doing four things, I will live to see another day following a police encounter. They are complying with and officer’s request; Hands up and open so it’s clear I have no weapon; make sure someone is recording the incident, if possible; and don’t turn my back or walk away unless instructed to do so. The fifth thing is to pray.
If I am unsuccessful, I’m not certain my family will get justice. Crutcher and others like him aren’t able to get up on witness stand to talk about his fears or thoughts before their death. Meantime, Officer Shelby got to tell the jury that she shot him because she feared for her life. She now gets to go home to hug her family and friends while his family does not. Where’s the justice in that?
Still, I’m not angry. I just wonder why a jury of my peers doesn’t consider the fear citizens have for their lives during a police stop? What will it take for them to do so? I can only hope that more people don’t take matters into their own hands because they don’t believe their loved ones will get justice in a courtroom? Perhaps, someone will finally find a way to try civilians and police officers how survive when they come in contact so no one reacts out of fear?