There has been a rash of police shootings in recent days. I see problems on both sides of this issue, and I think it bears some mutual consideration.

There has been a rash of police shootings in recent days. I see problems on both sides of this issue, and I think it bears some mutual consideration.
I was with the Military Police during the Viet Nam war and worked as a reserve deputy sheriff for Newton County for nearly 20 years as a road officer. I teach classes at the MSSU Police Academy, so I see the raw recruits that present themselves for a state commission to enforce our laws. I have seen good cops and bad cops, and I have seen both sides of the issue.
One of several common themes that run through the police shootings is misunderstanding and disrespect, on both sides of the badge. Officers who do not respect the rights of citizens as innocent until proven guilty can cause rebellion during an investigation or even a simple traffic stop. Likewise, citizens must recognize that an officer's requests and orders must be obeyed for everyone's safety and cannot be ignored. An incident that happened to me many years ago is a good example.
I was behind a line of five cars on the highway. The lead car slowed to a stop to make a left turn. One impatient driver ahead of me pulled onto the shoulder and passed the stopped car on the right. I waited for traffic to clear, caught up with the offending driver and pulled him over to issue a warning. As I sat in my patrol car, calling in my location and vehicle tag number, the driver got out of the car and walked back toward me. I stood up and asked him to return to his car. He ignored the request, which then became a command two more times. He continue to ignore me as he approached.
I had a split second to determine what to do. The man was mid-60's, there were two other occupants of the car. Was he deaf? Did he not understand English? He was clearly upset, but did he pose a threat? He reached behind his back. I drew my weapon but did not point it at the subject. Fortunately, in his hand was his wallet which posed no threat. But I could not know that until it was visible. My reasoning in a micro-second was that he was probably old enough that he posed less of a threat, that as a driver, he probably did not carry a weapon in the small of his back which would have been very uncomfortable, and I was at least partially shielded by the position of my patrol car.
It could have gone terribly wrong, and it has for too many officers and citizens. The problem is that too many citizens do not respect that an officer must control the situation until the investigation is resolved and parties are identified and vetted. Insolence is not a crime, but it can get you killed under the wrong circumstances. Citizens must obey a reasonable, lawful command or risk arrest or worse. Officers are increasingly wary of confrontational behavior with the proliferation of firearms available to anyone, and officers are under increasing pressure for personal safety.
The bottom line is to respect police commands and obey, no matter how unreasonable you think they may be. We are fortunate in our area to have outstanding officers who respect citizens. If you think you have been wronged in some way by an officer, get his or her name and get an attorney, but don't risk your life by standing your ground to prove a point or exercise what you believe to be your constitutional rights. It could save your life.

Mike Davis writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.