In many ways, the shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa was a familiar one: A white police officer. An unarmed black man shot dead. A disturbing confrontation captured on video that prompted outrage. This time, the officer firing the deadly shot was a woman, Betty Jo Shelby, a rarity in fatal police encounters, the New York Times reports. “That is an anomaly,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “One of things we know from our work on developing training is that the skills that women use in these situations — primarily communication and engaging with the person — are enormously effective in defusing potentially volatile encounters.”
Police officers kill about 1,000 people each year, according to Philip Stinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University, who uses figures from the Justice Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only a handful of those shootings are by female officers. Stinson says that since 2005, there have been 77 police officers charged with manslaughter or murder for an on-duty shooting. Only three of those, including Shelby, were women. The other two were not convicted. Beginning in the 1990s, police departments started recruiting women more aggressively. There are now more than 100,000 female law enforcement officers in the nation, members of a group that has risen to the highest ranks in Houston, Minneapolis, Seattle and other big cities.