Cops often respond like doctors, nurses or paramedics because they deliver babies, treat injuries, and save lives. The majority act like heroes, some act like Evel Knievel, and a small few might act like the devil incarnate.

They frequently deal with plumbing or electrical issues, counseling, animal control, or any job where a citizen might be bumfuzzled and not know who to call. Counseling isn’t part of the definition of a cop, but perhaps it should be. Careers in counseling and law enforcement are different types of professions, but they involve very similar traits like personal grit, stamina, and maintaining an honorable standard of conduct.

A retired high school counselor once said that she wasn’t replaced when she retired. She said, “Safe and Drug Free Federal funding, peer support group training, and anti-bullying programs are practically obsolete. School counselors addressed students’ depression, anxiety, trauma, illegal drug use and more, but now that job falls on school resource officers who aren’t trained to handle those issues.”

A retired middle-school counselor said that her nephew is a public-school resource officer. She suggested that he believes lack of counseling, crime, antagonistic parents, combative students, drugs, and fights are the reason more security is needed on public-school campuses. She made the comment that the stories he tells sound more like they came from a prison yard than a school yard.

Counseling is not taught in the police academy, but by default, today’s society pushes cops to be pseudo-counselors. There are no right or wrong words that work in every given situation, so they use the trial and error method. If one conversation doesn’t work, they quickly change the dialogue. Counseling recipients usually direct the line of questions. The keys to identifying what should be said are good observation and accurately hearing what is being said. If recipients are talking about a recent salary increase, they might smile. If they’re talking about a nasty divorce, they might frown.

Anyone can benefit from counseling. It can assist to develop problem-solving skills, reduce stress, calm emotions, improve unhealthy behavioral issues, and reduce the stigma of seeking help. Counselor training for certified law enforcement officers at all police academies could be advantageous because of the many horrific situations they face. It could also be advantageous to help school resource officers deal with the myriad of issues facing students.

Cops and counselors handle their responsibilities using an approved set of standards and a strict code of ethics. Unfortunately, the standards and codes of ethics can conflict with their personal beliefs and place them in an awkward position. When this happens, they still have to make decisions that are honorable and legal. One glaring difference between these professions is that cops generally have a higher rate of post-traumatic stress disorder, high blood pressure, substance abuse, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression and suicide.

A person who wants to be a school counselor is required to earn a master’s degree in counseling. If they want to be a licensed counselor, they also need to obtain specific training hours under the tutelage of another licensed counselor. Cops don’t have these requirements or possess this training, but they are forced to do the job anyway.

Cops and counselors respond to emergencies that can add up to be huge traumatic experiences that the average person never sees. Like many professions, some people feel that it’s okay to take advantage of them in social settings. Some people are fascinated and can’t get enough whereas others are disenchanted and avoid them at all cost. The fascinated seek all types of advice and counseling because it’s free and at their fingertips. They fail to realize that these professionals are off-duty and might be trying to distance themselves from their occupational routine. When they aren’t working, they try hard to join reality and become and everyday Tom, Sally or George.

It’s good for people to vent, and counselors and cops offer a sanctuary for that to happen. They regularly hear things that might make the hair on anyone’s back stand on end. One is highly trained and the other is not, but they share a kindred spirit, and they both save lives.

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Charlie Sewell lives in Cherokee County. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists of Devilment, Devotion and A Little Danger” is available on Amazon. Email him at IdratheryoucallmeCharlie@gmail.com.

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