Like many of the shooting victims of police, the life of Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby is now being heavily scrutinized. While none of the investigation materials are available, much insight can be gained from the public documents that are available including Ofc. Shelby’s application with the Tulsa police department. Shelby’s application reveals some damning information that brings into question her suitability to serve as an officer.
While there were obviously no arrests in Ofc. Shelby’s past, her application for employment with Tulsa PD reveals a history of domestic violence. Sure, everyone has something in their past that they are not proud of. Everyone has crazy ex who either called the cops on you or threatened to. Why the case of Betty Shelby is different is because she and those who hired her are held to a higher standard. Police will cry about the double standard that exists which is not only real but necessary. Police regularly claim to to be the elite among us. That being the case, they should have the ability to demonstrate their claims.
Incidents of domestic violence are incidents that are prohibited from an applicants past. Any involvement in an incident of domestic violence demonstrates, in the eyes of a police recruiter, a distinct lack of judgment, whether yours directly or your spouses. According to the City of Palo Alto California Police Department, “Commission of any act of domestic violence as an adult shall be disqualifying.” This is the norm in post parts of the country. People often misconstrue what domestic violence actually is. It doesn’t always mean you punched your girl in the nose. The Department of Justice defines domestic violence as, “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” This often includes harassment, verbal abuse and stalking. Often times, any admission of domestic violence, no matter how small, will result in a rejection letter.
Further investigation into Betty Shelby’s history of domestic violence reveals that she had been involved in two separate incidents of domestic violence in her life. Two that made it to the attention of authorities anyway. In 1993, she and her ex-boyfriend used impeccable judgment when they decided to bang up each other’s cars. Both had a temporary restraining order put in place, but it was eventually dismissed. Everyone has trouble like this at some point, what’s the big deal? This goes back to that higher standard cops like to talk about. There are a ton of applicants who don’t have a tarnished history. Her second incident came in 2002 when she began to harass her ex-husband’s new wife. She denied the allegations, however, they were serious enough for a restraining order to be sought. While not convictions in the eyes of the law, they demonstrate a long term pattern of poor judgment in emotional situations.
We are all human. We all make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes look worse from the outside than they really were in reality. The problem here is that police are held to a higher standard and for good reason. We need to know that those who are chosen to protect us have the ability to do so when the pressure is on. Unfortunately for Terrance Crutcher, Betty Shelby didn’t have that ability. The fault lies not with her alone, but with the heads of the department who thought a history of domestic violence was a good representation of their agency.