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It is double pleasure to
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                Niccolo Machiavelli

Criminal Coup Counting

On this page:
Historical Counting Coup | How Criminals Do It 

We all know that certain inmates are more prone to go off when particular officers are on duty.

Ever wondered how they know who to mess with?

It's not magic or some criminal psychic ability. It is a process of tests. A process that is very real. And its significance is not well understood by people who have not had to face down violent people.

Historical Counting Coup
Among the Plains Indians killing an enemy in battle wasn't the highest honor. The act of touching an opponent without being killed was a mark of bravery. The shorter the instrument used, the greater the honor awarded the warrior. The greatest act of courage -- and highest honor -- was to touch an armed enemy with your hand and escape alive.

Remember this concept,  slide in and slide out unscathed. (You will see this information again.) These acts of bravery were recorded in the warrior's attire, much like a military "salad bar." You could at a glance tell how many brave acts he had done by simply counting (e.g., how many feathers he had on his war bonnet). The common translation of this process was called "counting coup" (pronounced "coo").

How Criminals Do It
In a similar vein, criminals count coup on authority figures. If they can move into position where they can say to themselves, "I could have taken him or her," they consider this an act of bravery, defiance and superiority. They then sit back and deal with the authority figure, while harboring a belief in their own superiority. This makes them more difficult to deal with.

What makes this worse is that they have actually demonstrated their superiority over you to themselves. With them using a standard you probably didn't even know existed, it's now doubly tough for you to maintain control over the situation. In their eyes, you have lost credibility because you didn't know how to function on this level. The problem is that this isn't just imagined superiority, the criminal now has "stable data" that you'd be easy to attack. Criminals are strongly influenced with dominance, pecking order and one-ups-man-ship (think "props," "respect," and "manhood"). Counting coup is very much a part of this larger issue that drives criminal's lives; it applies not only with each other, but against you, too 

The problem is an inmate or violent person can also use this process to build up to an attack. It is a collective process. If he moves into attack position (or sees an opportunity where he could attack) it's like he marks off a little "gotcha" checkmark in his head. When he gets enough of these checks, he knows whom he can safely "go off on." Criminals use victim selection about who they choose to rob, rape, etc. What you might not realize is they are doing the same process of selecting which officers, guards or orderlies they will go off on.

Add to this, he's also looking for "when and where." Knowing all of this, you'll have a pretty good idea where the hot spots are going to be. The single, female officer transferring a much larger sexual predator, as happened with the escape and homicides in the Atlanta, Georgia courthouse because of understaffing, is a tragic example.

Counting coup is very much a part of the Shadow Dance.

Even if the attack is minutes, days or weeks down the line, a violent perp counting coup is not something you want to let slide. Every time he gets a coup, he's that much closer to attacking. Your ability to shadow dance is what is going to keep him from getting enough coup points. Every time he moves into position to zap you, you have to move counter by moving into a position where you could drop him. This a very clear message to him that you are not safe to attack.

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