ACA Blog

Kareem Puranda
Oct 01, 2012

Cops, Robbers, and Counselors Ohhh My…

Can counselors find a niche in between these polarities? The common thread between these entities is the affirming of community trust. From a historical standpoint I think criminals and police officers share similar ideologies relative to their context…. both believe the other is the adversary, at times both consider each other a gang, both are willing to use deadly force, both are constantly thinking of ways to perform their jobs better and the list continues. If you can come up with anymore commonalities please feel free to cue them in the comments.

Playing cops and robbers in reality does not involve the innocence of a childhood game where one child runs and the other child chases, it is more about what creates suitability for the community when these polarities engage. Television often misrepresents and does an extremely poor job of demystifying these roles for the people who are on the outside looking in. Is there havoc when these forces collide? Sure there is…Police officers are responsible for keeping the peace and removing the bad guys from society. They face a ton of anxiety when their roles are challenged by unruly or combative suspects. Talk about the amplification of stress! What’s a cop to do? Most people would not want to trade jobs with a police officer because of the risks. So many of us are left to wonder, where do police officers come from? What are their backgrounds? Are they profilers, culturally insensitive, prejudice, or abusers of authority? Are police officers psychologically prepared to handle the dire or civil consequences of a split second decision in a rapidly evolving event which they believe threatens their physical wellbeing and/or a third party’s welfare? More importantly how conscious are police officers of their “stuff.” The same “stuff” professional counselors have to bracket of to the side to show unconditional regard for clients. These factors will influence how an officer interacts with his or her community. Will it not? This is the “stuff” that the public wants to know when they petition for a publicly acceptable justification for officer’s actions during use of force events. Can counselors help both sides identify this “stuff?”

On the flipside of the coin, criminals think with a one track mind. That is to simply break the law but how they break it is intelligibly multifaceted because they learn how to cross their T’s and dot their I’s so well. How does a criminal become who he or she is? Often times it is the environment they are raised in. From my experience the criminal mindset is more like a handicapped thinking derived from the depravation of the environment they live in which translates into a perpetual cycle of criminal thinking either learned as a rites of passage or passed down as a familial legacy. It can probably be called modeling or adaptation as well. It is not that criminals lack the ability to do the right thing, in many cases, when dealing with the disadvantaged population, criminals simply do not know how to adjust to the acceptable societal narrative. Or do they? Perhaps they do not want to commit to the right choices based on what is dictated in their environment? Sometimes criminal behavior is a defense mechanism that defends against becoming prey in dangerous environments. So not only do criminals defend against a perceived adversary in law enforcement but they have to defend against the elements in their environment as well. As counselors a conceivable way to help this population is to empathize with the lifestyle and once a disadvantaged person recognizes true empathetic understanding, that empathy will plant the seed that eventually evolves into change.

So where do counselors fit into all of this? Ohhh another thing I forgot to mention about commonalities… both officers and criminals do not like talking to counselors… just thought I’d throw that in there…Sworn officers don’t want to seem unfit for duty and criminals think we don’t have a clue about what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Perhaps they are right but there is hope. The implication is that we counselors represent the community trust…How so? Our training! Helping others recognize faulty assumptions, expose and confront ambivalence, help others conceptualize healthy coping mechanisms, bring the subconscious to the conscious without being rigidly clinical. The burden of community trust rests with the law enforcement agencies. Advocate for the incorporation of counseling during a cadet’s law enforcement training. Personally, I have more that I can share about this topic but I will pause for conversation. Thanks for reading to yourself.

Kareem Puranda is a counselor-in-training at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is an advocate for the disadvantaged population and can be reached at

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