Sometimes, being black is like living inside a terrible movie where the world is so racist that it’s damn near impossible to believe. For example, imagine being a movie producer and I came to you to pitch this idea:
OK, there’s a woman cop named Betty Shelby. One day, while on duty, Shelby kills an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher while he is walking away from her with his hands in the air. It is caught on two different cameras.
In the second act, our antagonist goes on a news show like ... oh, let’s say 60 Minutes. She damn near admits to the crime. She tells the interviewer, “If I wait to find out if he had a gun or not, I could very well be dead. ... There’s something that we [police] always say: ‘I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.’” Then her lawyers float the idea that Crutcher was a criminal, calling him a “certified gang member.”
The trial happens at the beginning of the third act, and even with video evidence, even with her statements, even though her only defense is that she thought Crutcher might have been reaching for a weapon that didn’t exist through a window that was closed—she gets acquitted! The police department tells her she can keep working in a cushy desk job, but she says, “Naaah, I’m good. I want a job where I can be on the street to possibly kill more unarmed black men,” so she resigns. Then, in the last scene, she walks into the sunset ... no, even better, she gets a job as a sheriff’s officer, with a gun and everything. She lives happily ever after. Orchestra music plays. Fade to black. Credits roll.
You’d kick me out of your office. You’d tell me it was too “on the nose” and didn’t have enough nuance. “Sure, the world is racist,” you’d say. “But not that racist.” You’d think no one would go see that movie. “It’s too unbelievable,” you’d say.
Betty Shelby, the former Tulsa, Okla., police officer acquitted of killing Terence Crutcher in cold blood—even though there are two videos that show her killing Crutcher in cold blood—has a brand-new job as a reserve deputy with the Rogers County (Okla.) Sheriff’s Office, according to several sources, including the Tulsa World.
Shelby was sworn in by the RCSO during a live press conference Thursday morning surrounded by Sheriff Scott Walton, county officials and well-wishers. The county doesn’t usually hold press conferences for swearing-in ceremonies, but because of the high profile of Shelby’s case and Walton’s vociferous support of her during her trial, Rogers County apparently thought it necessary to flaunt the fact that it was hiring a cold-blooded killer, because ... fuck Terence Crutcher.
During Shelby’s terrible ordeal, in which she had to endure months of freedom, getting paid without actually working and not being dead, Walton posted at least three letters on the RCSO Facebook page offering support and slamming Shelby’s critics, calling her a “sacrificial lamb.”
This is why Crutcher is dead. This is why Mike Brown is dead. This is why Tamir Rice is dead. This is why John Crawford is dead. It is not just because of the juries who acquit the thieves who rob the world of black lives. It is not simply because of the apathy of men and women in blue uniforms toward the black citizens they are sworn to protect and serve. It is because they know they will never suffer any repercussions for cold-blooded murder under the authority of the law.
Not only are they never punished; they also prosper. And they prosper so that they can do it again.
Take Timothy Loehmann, for instance. Loehmann worked as a police officer in Independence, Ohio. His supervisor there recommended his termination for lying, insubordination and being unable to perform his duties. Instead of being fired for being a terrible police officer, he was allowed to resign so that he could get another job as a cop, paving the way for him to shoot 12-year-old Tamir Rice as the youngster played in a Cleveland park in 2014. Even though Loehmann shot Tamir two seconds after he spotted the kid playing in a park, Loehmann never faced charges and kept working for the Cleveland Police Department until May 30, 2017.
New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo had been accused of police violations and had been sued three times for falsely arresting black men before he
murdered stopped Eric Garner from breathing.
The police officers in Jennings, Mo., were so notoriously racist, the department eventually had to fire every officer on the force and bring in new officers. Most of the officers kept working. One of those officers—Darren Wilson—landed a better-paying job in Ferguson, Mo., and patrolled the streets there until he shot Mike Brown six times on Aug. 9, 2014.
“But she was acquitted,” some people will say of Betty Shelby. “In America, you are innocent until proven guilty. You can’t persecute her if she isn’t guilty of a crime.”
“Really?” said the long-dead corpses of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Terence Crutcher.
Editor’s note: Tamir, Garner, Brown and Crutcher didn’t actually say that because ... you know.