Southland: Thursday

After a couple of years on the job every cop has to make a decision about what kind of cop they’re going to be. The time has come for Officer Ben Sherman to decide.

Getting up in the morning, every morning, knowing that part of your job is to carry a gun, can be a bit overwhelming, if you let it. Ben Sherman is one of those officers who hasn’t quite learned how not to be overwhelmed. He’s also hiding behind his badge, using his authority to carry out a mission. Some argue the mission is a deep-rooted issue with his own father. Some say there are other motivators. No matter the reason, though, Ben Sherman is an overconfident and cocky, loose cannon.

Sammy knows Ben is standing at the edge, and he feels responsible. He even tells Ben that he gave up his position as a detective, returning to uniform duty, so he could help younger officers. Ben shrugs off Sammy’s heartfelt words and heads out to begin his shift, and his quest to hunt down “Pimp Ronnie,” the guy whose gunshots caused the car crash that landed Sammy in the hospital. Pimp Ronnie is also the father of the girl Ben so desperately wants to save from a life in the streets (the bad father-figure theory?).

Ben is partnered with Ferguson (LDP himself), who offers Ben a brief lecture about wasting his time trying to save the hookers, but still has no qualms about about joining the hunt for the man who tried to kill two cops (shoot at the boys in blue and we’re coming after you!).

Well, it doesn’t take long before Ben is in a foot chase with Pimp Ronnie. Ferguson tries to get in front of the chase using the patrol car, but he’s not quick enough. Ben doesn’t answer his radio, He runs. Breathing hard. Sucking wind. Faster and faster. Just out of sight of Ferguson, when suddenly a shot’s fired.

Ferguson runs toward the sound and finds Ben standing over a very dead Pimp Ronnie. A gun is on the pavement beside the body. A gun that looks suspiciously like the gun we saw Ben cleaning in the opening scene. A drop gun? Did Ben murder an unarmed man? Revenge for shooting at Ben and Sammy? Or revenge for the way Pimp Ronnie treated his own daughter? The father-figure-syndrome? No matter the reason, it sure looks as if Ben, overwhelmed and overconfident, hid behind his badge and murdered a man. Granted, the man was not an innocent man, but murder is murder.

Cooper and Tang—the tension is so thick between the two that you’d have to use an ax to even make a dent in it. Cooper doesn’t like the fact that Tang will do whatever it takes to come out on top of any situation, including putting Cooper’s life at risk while she plays cowgirl during an intense shootout at a car wash.

And to make matters worse, Tang flaunts her cockiness by tossing the orange gun tip (the one she removed after shooting an innocent kid) to Cooper while the two of them argue outside the bar where a celebration in Tang’s honor is well underway.

Cooper’s one of the original good guys. He’s a cop, with blue running through his veins. He’s the guy who goes home, strips off his gear, and can get a good night’s sleep knowing he did the best job he could possibly do. Sure, he’s got his flaws, but at the end of the day his badge is shining as brightly as it ever did. No tarnish there, no sir.

Lydia (Regina King) delivered a powerful performance off camera last night. We didn’t have to see or hear what went on in that burn victim’s hospital room to know how deeply the interview affected Adams. Her emotional rooftop scene afterward told us all we needed to know. She was keeping her baby and she was not going to let anything happen to it. Not ever. And she proved that by taking a desk job for the duration of her pregnancy.

This was a season finale that really delivered. The show started with a bang and never let up until it ended with a quick one-two punch to the gut. Then, without giving us time to catch our breath, the writers left us with a few unanswered questions.

– Sammy knows, and we know he knows. Once again, Shawn Hatosy said a million words with mere facial expressions. And I don’t think he likes the Ben he’s seeing. And I’m not sure I’m liking what I see either. Ben’s on a one man quest to save the world, but who’s going to save him from himself?

– Cooper has a new boot, a clumsy, new recruit who’s ready to be molded into a real police officer by TO John Cooper. Let’s hope Cooper has better luck with this one. Hey, things have to be looking up, right? After all, Cooper’s got a shiny orange good luck charm on his key chain. What more could he ask for?

– Tang is a sergeant. You know, sometimes it’s the devious and not-so-nice that get ahead. That’s life. Accept it.

The show started on a Wednesday this year, with freshly scrubbed faces and new attitudes. It came to a conclusion on Thursday, with battered bodies and troubled hearts. Will the relationships survive? Should they?

One thing I’m certain of…everyone involved in this show absolutely wants to “get it right.” They want to accurately portray life as a police officer. And they pull no punches. In fact, there was one scene in last night’s episode that summed it all up while using very few words.

Cooper and Tang entered the car wash, knowing there were armed gunmen hiding inside. Extremely frightened customers and workers were running outside to safety. Cooper encouraged them to leave. “Go. Go. Go. Get out of here,” Cooper said to them. And then he and Tang headed straight into the danger. No hesitation. No second thoughts. Because that’s what cops do. They head into danger while everyone else runs away from it.

Will we see the officers of Southland again next season?

I certainly hope so, because this is hands-down the best darn cop show on TV.

Light ’em up!


*     *     *

Want to train like a real cop at a real police academy?

Want to see how and why the Southland stars “get it right?”

Join us for the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy and go through training similar to police academies all across the country.

This is the real deal!

Registration is well underway, and it’s open to everyone – writers, readers, Southland fans, etc.

Featuring Lee Child as keynote speaker.

Special guest speaker – Renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray.

All new workshops!

Firearms, K-9’s, arson investigation, fingerprinting, interview and interrogation, bloodstain pattern, homicide investigations, ride-a-longs with sheriff’s deputies and patrol officers, polygraph, firefighters, and much, much more!

Special surprise (you won’t believe this once-in-a-lifetime…oops, almost spilled the beans!!)


How do you like The Graveyard Shift’s new look?

Southland: Risk

As cops become more experienced their confidence inevitably grows. Confidence can lead them to take more risks. That’s when they’re in real danger.

Overconfident. Complacency. Two words that easily roll off the tongue. Two words that don’t sound so bad, right? You know, they even have a certain “coolness” about them. But in a cop’s world, they’re two words that’ll get you killed. Yeah, been there, seen that—the bloody results of overconfidence and complacency. And, unfortunately, on Fridays you sometimes read about it right here on this blog.

A badge is called a shield, not a suit of armor. It’s not hanging on the chest as a means to stop flying lead. Yes, confidence is a great thing when used in conjunction with experience, training, and common sense. But “bulletproof” confidence alone, well, it can land even the best of cops in an ocean filled with bubbling and boiling hot water.

Common sense is probably one of the most important tools of the cop trade. It’s even more important than guns, Tasers, handcuffs, and radios. Did our Southland heroes use their common sense this week, or were they victims of an overdose of confidence? Well, let’s see. Why don’t we hop into the backseat of a few of SL’s patrol cars and eavesdrop a bit.

Partners. Sounds so carefree and happy, doesn’t it? But, let’s put that word in perspective. Cops ride together, eat together, carry on conversations, breath the same air, fight the same fights, argue the same arguments, talk to the same people, experience the same things, day in and day out, month after month, year after year. The same two people are crammed inside the jam-packed front compartment of a patrol car. And they do this on good days, bad days, happy days, sad days, grieving days, sick days, well days, and all while wearing a ton of gear, uncomfortable shoes, and a steaming hot Kevlar vest.

So think about it for a second. How would that same atmosphere be if one of those two people no longer trusted his partner? How thick would the air be inside that snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug front compartment? Not so nice, huh? Well, that’s what it’s like inside the CoopTang Mobile. Tensions are high, to say the least. And Tang’s about to be promoted to sergeant? Coop’s blood has to be boiling beneath that “iceman” exterior.

Cooper and Tang at the range is a good example of the icy conditions between the two. Tang says she thinks she’s going to get the promotion. Cooper’s cool reply, “Good for you,” had enough frost on it to chill a tall glass of freshly brewed iced tea. This partnership is done. Stick a fork in it.

Lydia…what can I say. All my bellyaching over the past few weeks came to a head tonight. Lydia (Regina King) belted out that money-making high note at the end of this week’s performance. Lesson learned…keep my hands and feet inside and my mouth tightly shut, and let Cheo Coker and Regina King drive this car, because they certainly knew where they were headed. Holy cow, what a scene—a gang member trying time and time again to stab Lydia, and almost succeeding until Ruben runs in to kick a three-pointer with the thug’s melon-size head. I was on the edge of my seat, reaching for my weapon. Hell, a rock, a stick, my fists…anything to stop the attack. But, the best I could come up with was a DVR remote and an ink pen. At least hitting the pause button gave Lydia a little breather between punctures.

Still, the scenes with Lydia, prior to this week and last night, were perfect examples of “confidence.” Well, they were good examples of overconfidence and complacency. Last night, for example, when Lydia (with child) does a few stupid things, like poking her little cop head inside a building where armed gang members are known to hang out. There’s a better way and that wasn’t it. Neither was Ruben running off to chase a fleeing bad guy, leaving Lydia all alone inside the rundown house. Never leave your partner in danger. Bad guys are a dime a dozen, just reach inside the barrel and grab another. There’s plenty to go around.

Sammy and Ben seem to be mending their differences. Sammy, however, tells Ben that he hopes there are no repercussions from the “pimp pounding” he delivered last week. An excellent example of common sense taking a backseat overconfidence—wanting to save the world in a day, and stupidity.

Let’s take a moment to point out a few high points of the show before moving on.

– Lydia and Ruben are at a murder scene. While gazing at the dead body, they’re talking about food—what to have for lunch, etc. Nothing unusual here, folks. I’ve seen people eat while standing around dead bodies. I remember one officer standing at the scene of a traffic crash and while waiting for the coroner, he had a snack of Pop Tarts, a cops’ instant meal. I’ve even seen a coroner and his crew eating donuts while standing not two feet away from their “guest of the day.”

– Cooper and Tang stop a car. Cooper approaches on the driver’s side while Tang stops at the rear window of the passenger side. Good technique. Tang could then observe any and all activity not visible to Cooper or the passengers inside.

– Ben offers a prostitute money if she’ll quit the business and go home to her family. But Sammy speeds off before Ben can complete his sentence. Rookies sometimes fall prey to folks like prostitutes, drug users and abusers, etc., wanting to save them from their pitiful lives. It’s easy to do, but the results are seldom positive. The users and abusers usually wind up taking advantage of the officer’s pity, leaving the rookie a little lighter in the wallet and a little more bitter in the heart.

– The scenes with Lydia and Ruben and the gang members were good examples of “playing the game” while interrogating suspects. Lydia’s promissory note stating that she would not arrest the kid was priceless. It’s a classic and is used quite often, as are many others. Separating the thugs is always a good idea too. And always, always, always cull the weakest from the herd. They’ll talk first. Doing so also makes the remaining suspects a little nervous, so they’ll often start snitching on their buddies to try and divert to attention away from themselves.

– Cooper and Tang are once again interviewed by internal affairs investigators. This situation is eating at Cooper’s “Do Right” nerve. He wants Tang to do the right thing. He wants to tell what he thinks happened. But he’s a patrol cop, and patrol cops rely on facts.

– Tang…well, she’s a liar and will do anything to get that extra stripe. Coop’s done with her. And good for him.

– Lydia finally admits to Ruben that she’s pregnant.

– Lydia was stabbed several times. Vests do not stop penetrations from knives, ice picks, screwdrivers, and other sharp objects. However, there is a trauma plate (steel or ceramic) that covers the center of the chest. The removable plate (it’s removable to allow for washing the cloth carrier) is inserted into a pocket for added protection against the impact of a round to that area. And that’s where all but one of the punctures were delivered to Lydia’s vest.

And that brings us to this…

The recipient of the pimp pounding drives up to Ben and Sammy and begins to unload his semi-auto into the car. The result is a reverse high-speed pursuit with the cops being chased by the bad guy.

Bullets are flying, Ben is frantically calling for assistance, when suddenly…

Then we see this, the end-result of Ben stepping over the line.

Can Ben live with the consequences of his overconfident rookie mistakes?

This was probably the best episode of Southland to ever hit our living rooms. The acting was stellar, and the story was superb, starting like a train leaving the station, chugging, and puffing, and blowing clouds of hot smoke everywhere until the engine was booming our way at 100mph. And it all ended with a crash that spun to a stop at our feet.

All I could say at that point was…WOW!

This episode is a shining example of why Southland is best darn cop show on TV…ever.


*     *     *

*I’m issuing a BOLO (Be On The Lookout). Be on the lookout for an all new look for The Graveyard Shift. It just might take place sometime today. Check back often, and please tell all your friends!

*The Writers’ Police Academy announces renowned forensic anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Murray as 2012 Special Guest Speaker.

Dr. Murray is an author, researcher, and media consultant whose work has taken her around the world as a forensic anthropology consultant for local, regional and national agencies and organizations. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the 2012 WPA, including:

– Forensic Science Specialist for the Department of Justice/National Institute of Justice’s National Unidentified and Missing Persons System (NamUs)

– Author of two recent science books for young adults

– Numerous peer-reviewed presentations before the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

– Regular cast member for the Skeleton Stories TV series on the Discovery Health Channel

– Scientific Consultant and on-camera personality for the four-part mini-series, Skeleton Crew/Buried Secrets for the National Geographic Channel

– Visiting Scientist to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, U.S. Military Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii and Laos

– Forensic Anthropology Lecturer and Mass Disaster Team Member for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology

– Appearances on Forensic Files, New Detectives, Unsolved Mysteries, America’s Most Wanted

– Historic and prehistoric skeletal analyses, including principal investigator for Cincinnati’s Music Hall skeletal collection.

Southland: God's Work

Cops are often asked if they believe they’re doing God’s work. Officer Ben Sherman is just trying to do the job without losing his soul.

All cops burn out. That was the message delivered in the pre-shift briefing, or “muster” as it’s called in some departments. But, no matter what you call the meeting, the message remains the same. It’s a tough job that can wear you down. Down to the core if you’re not careful. All that built-up tension and stress has to go somewhere. After all, you shake the soda bottle, and you shake it, and you shake it, and then when the top finally pops off…well, we all know happens. And it’s a mess.

Speaking of a real mess. Ben Sherman reached that rookie fork-in-the-road and definitely went in the wrong direction, taking a left when the scarecrow pointed right. And Ben’s unfortunate choice has led him down a very lonely and dangerous road called “I can save the world all by myself.” Had he chosen, instead, to go right as the dimwitted talking mattress had suggested, by now Officer Sherman would have been a well-adjusted and productive police officer who still shines his shoes and polishes his badge daily, much to the delight of his superiors.

Instead, we see a rookie who’s speeding down the road to unemployment, and possibly wearing handcuffs. His shoes are scuffed and the sheen is fading from his badge. It happens. Officers often find themselves standing at the fork in the road, forcing them to make a decision between left and right. But all they have to do is listen to the scarecrow inside their head. He always knows the right way. Never buck the scarecrow.

This week, actually, we see each of our teams—partners—facing that fork in the road, with each of them up against different, potentially badge-dulling decisions.

Cooper’s guts are churning over the issue with Tang. She covered up something that really needed no cover. He can no longer trust her. But the worst part of it all is that he hasn’t come forward with the truth, and that’s what wearing the badge is all about. That’s really what’s eating at John Cooper. It’s his own integrity he’s questioning, not hers. He already knows what she’s all about.

Using a lie—almost killing an innocent person and then covering up the act—to advance your career. Yeah, that’s disgusting.

Cooper is later seen with his sponsor, who asks him, “Still thinking about it (the drugs and his addiction)?”

Cooper responds, “Every minute of every day.”

A pause.

Cooper asks, “Ever get over that?”

Sponsor. “No, but it gets easier.”

How true. Drug addiction is not like a cold. You don’t get well after you fight off the sickness, you just don’t use drugs. But you’ll always want to.

Michael Cudlitz does a wonderful job of playing the troubled John Cooper. If I didn’t know better I’d think he’s really a reincarnated drug-addicted veteran cop. There are parallels between his character and some real life cops that are, well, they’re simply uncanny.

Lydia and Ruben catch a case where a pregnant nanny fell to her death from an upper tier in a parking garage. The case was unusually weak for this series, with no real closure for the viewers. But the scenes weren’t about the case. Instead, it was yet another incident designed to further the storyline regarding Adams’ pregnancy. And we did learn the father’s name this week, Terrell, and that Papa “T” is a married man.

I still say this particular storyline is a slight hurdle for the show. It slows the episode to an almost standstill every time we see it. Yes, I know that female officers do get pregnant and they do have to work around the pregnancy while continuing their careers. But that’s in real life, why insert that into what’s always been an extremely action-packed TV series. Still, Regina King is a fantastic actor who does a great job with what she’s given. Don’t get me wrong, the writing is solid. Excellent, even. I’m just not a fan of the direction they’ve given Lydia to travel. Any other show, yes. But not for Southland. However, some viewers may love these scenes and what they bring to the show.

Tell you what, though, I have a perfect scene in mind for Lydia. Cheo, you listening??

Sammy and Ben – Ben’s traveling down the “save the world” path and he’s dragging Sammy along with him. However, Sammy’s only there to pick up pieces and clean up the mess Ben’s leaving in his wake. In fact, Ben’s on such a destructive path (beating up/assaulting a pimp, punching a teenage girl, sleeping with every badge bunny with a pulse, etc.) that Sammy’s forced to give him the “I’ll pull you to safety but stop kicking while I swim,” speech.

During Sammy’s speech, he pointed out the things an officer stands to lose by not following the rules and living up to the standards that go hand in hand with wearing a badge.  He said, “I’ll back you up punch for punch, bullet for bullet. But I’m not going to give you my house. I’m not going to give you my pension. And I’m not going to give you my freedom. Don’t ever do anything like that again.” So you see, police officers have a lot more to lose than just a job when they break the rules. One wrong move and they could lose everything.

And let’s not forget the stellar performance by Ben McKenzie. He’s truly bringing us a very complex character and he’s delivering him to us in large servings. Great, great job.

Compelling moments during this episode:

– The woman/rape victim realizing she’d shot a man who was simply trying to give her the set of keys she’d dropped. He was not stalking her.

– The teenage girl forced to work as a prostitute to survive.

– Tang using her “shooting gone wrong” to impress the panel during her promotion-to-sergeant interview.

– Sammy facial expressions. No words could have better described what he said to Ben with that face.

– Dewey’s comment to Tang – “If you can live with it (the shooting and the lies) nobody can stop you.”

– Cooper looking on during Tang’s sergeant interview.

– Sammy and Ben searching the vacant house. They both took a glance down before climbing the stairs. No tripping. No noise. Never give away your position.

– Sammy’s favorite line, repeated by Ben, “Who wants to go to jail; who wants to go home? We’ve all said that at least a thousand times, and it usually produces excellent results. There’s always someone who’d rather give up the goods than to go to jail.

Southland is definitely a character-driven show. I think you could hand this cast a handful of furniture store going-out-of-business-sale flyers, telling them that’s the script for the next episode, and they’d turn those few silly words into a gripping, compelling story that would keep us all coming back for more.

I’ll say it again, this is the best, most realistic cop show to ever hit the TV screen.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy has officially begun.

Space is limited to the first 150 people to sign up.

You don’t want to miss this action-packed weekend. Besides, where else could you go to play cops and robbers with Lee Child!

Southland: Fallout

“LAPD officers start every shift knowing they only have a fraction of a second to make a difficult choice. The ramifications will last their whole lives.”

There’s never been a statement about cops that rings truer than the opening voice-over of last night’s episode. A split second that lasts a lifetime. An act that forever spins and twirls inside your head like a crazed ballerina on speed.

You’ve lived all your life as you, and suddenly “you” has become someone different. A stranger. Someone new now lives inside your mind, sharing your thoughts and controlling your actions. The “you” you’d lived with for so long is gone and will never return. That “fraction of a second” was the tipping point that sent “you” away for good.

I’ve shot thousands of rounds of ammunition in my lifetime, popping holes in paper targets depicting faceless men with coke-bottle-shaped limbless bodies. Center mass, that’s the spot. Always the center. And I always left a gaping hole right there. Right in the center.

My “fraction of a second” came a long time ago during a gun battle where 68 rounds were exchanged between a robber and police. I terminated the threat with five carefully placed rounds of my own.

No paper.

No coke bottle.

No score.

All flesh and bone.

BAM! Center mass.

BAM, BAM! Center mass.

BAM, BAM! Center mass.

It was over. And then it began.

Now every day for me is like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. The clock sounds at 6am, the music starts, and it’s August 1994 all over again.

A lifetime of that nonsense.

And that same day has just begun for Officer Tang.

Tang is served with divorce papers and the act sets off a wave of emotions. She knew the day would come, but what she didn’t know was how it would affect her job and the way she conducted “cop” business.

Police officers are expected to perform their duties fairly and justly without allowing their emotions to stand in the way of either. But cops are human. They have bad days. Their kids run away. Their cars break down. Their babies get sick. Their plumbing leaks. Their parents die. Their spouses cheat. They’re people, just like you.

But, while they’re dealing with their own personal issues, they also have to solve yours and protect you from the crazies of the world. Sometimes, they have to suck up their own troubles to run inside a burning building to drag you out because you were too drunk to save yourself. They have stop grieving the death of their own mother to stop yours from hacking your father to death with a meat cleaver.

Their kid’s at home with a raging fever that just won’t go away, but they have to stand there and listen while you rant and rave and throw a temper tantrum about cops not doing anything but hanging out in doughnut shops. Sure, you’re yelling and screaming, calling them names and spitting on them because you hate what they stand for, but you don’t realize that an hour before you began your tirade, the officer standing calmly in front of you had risked her own life to pull a baby from a burning car. You don’t even notice the smell of her burned flesh and tire smoke on her uniform. You don’t see the pain in her eyes.

Yes, that’s the kind of bad day Officer Tang was facing. And yes, her emotions were going to cloud her judgement.

– Sammy and Ben are still at it, with Sammy giving Ben a very large cold shoulder. Cooper is trying his best to cheer up Tang. Lydia and Ruben are still not on the same page. She doesn’t quite trust him as a partner yet, so she’s not spilling the beans about her pregnancy. Not yet anyway.

– Sammy and Ben roll up on a disturbance between two food vendors who’re arguing over a parking space. Sammy “burps” the siren once to let everyone know the police are on the scene. Sometimes that single little act is enough to stop a fighter in mid-swing. Saves a lot of unnecessary fighting with suspects. And, the siren noise often sends guys running whose pockets are filled with dope and/or guns. Like shooting fish in a barrel. They make it so easy for the good guys.

– Tang sees a man peering inside a car window and she instantly springs into action—show me your hands, put your hands on the car, spread your feet (cops always say spread your feet, not “spread your legs.” think about the reason for the choice of words), and then she cuffs him. Well, turns out the car belonged to the cuffed guy and he’d locked his keys inside. Cooper walks off to retrieve a Slim Jim from the patrol car (Slim Jims are flat pieces of metal designed to slip between the door frame and window glass. Once inside, officers are able to maneuver the device until it hooks onto the proper mechanism and a gentle push or pull unlocks the door. Newer cars prove to be problematic and often the use of a Slim Jim causes quite a bit of damage inside the door).

Tang issues a traffic ticket to a man who’s waiting curbside to pick up his wife. Sure, he’s blocking traffic but his wife is on crutches and is making her way out of a doctor’s office. She has a broken leg so stopping there was basically using common sense. Tang will not not listen to reason or apologies. Ticket issued. Sign here.

Yes, Tang is having a rotten day.

So are Sammy and Ben, and the pot finally boiled over when Sammy said to Ben, “This car (patrol car) is the one place where somebody’s supposed to have my back.” His meaning was clear. Ben betrayed him when he accused Sammy of planting a crack pipe on a gang member (see last week’s review).

Sammy’s cold shoulder and mistrust continued after Ben saved him from Crazy Carol’s stabbing attempt. Ben thought the act of saving Sammy would be enough to mend the relationship, but Sammy quickly told him differently. “What you did (tackling Crazy Carol) is your job.” Yes, this relationship may be over for good. But one thing that will never be over is the compelling need to protect another officer from physical harm. Hate one another or not, the back up, even if it’s only while on duty, will always be there.

– Lydia and Ruben are still plugging along, working the murder case involving, ironically, a pregnant woman who killed her drug dealing boyfriend/husband (I’m not sure which). There were some good points in these scenes, like when Lydia and Ruben go to the front door to knock and we see two uniformed officers hanging back in the front yard. That’s the way it’s done. Detectives often take uniforms along when they’re about to make an arrest. They do so for a few reasons. One – everyone recognizes a police uniform as authority. Not everyone immediately recognizes a detective. Two – back up. Three – safety in numbers. Four – patrol officers have cages in their cars and much safer to transport a prisoner in a cage than it is to wrestle with them in a detective’s car. Although, we saw Lydia and Ruben transport the woman in their car. Notice, though, that Lydia rode in the backseat with the female prisoner. That’s the standard when you transport without a cage. However, officers should always sit with their gun side away from from the prisoner. Or, lock the weapon in a secure location (trunk, etc.). I noticed that Lydia was seated to the woman’s left in this scene. Is she right- or left-handed? Where was her gun?

By the way, foot pursuits with pregnant women and fat men normally don’t last very long.

Okay, back to Tang. She and Cooper are in foot pursuit of a man with gun. The suspect is wearing a gray, hooded sweatshirt.

Tang follows behind the guy, searching for him in back yards. Did you hear her heavy breathing. Believe me, the adrenaline is high in these situations. You try to be quiet so you don’t give away your position, but you just know the guy can hear you breathing. Your heart beats like a parade drum mallet against against the inside of your chest, another sound that’ll surely send bullets flying your way. But you push on, as did Tang.

Then it happened. Tang’s fraction of a second had arrived.

Her nerves were on edge. She knew there was a guy with a gun.


Heart pounding.


Divorce papers.

Not thinking clearly.



Center mass.

Tang shot the wrong guy, a kid with a toy gun.

However, the shooting was surely justifiable. The kid matched the description of the guy she’d been chasing. And he had a gun. She probably didn’t notice the orange tip (realistic-looking toy guns are required to have an orange tip on the barrel). It’s possible and highly probable that she didn’t. Besides, who’s to say a bad guy wouldn’t paint the tip of a real gun orange to give him that second or two advantage of “what if.” No doubt, the shooting was justified. But…

Tang does the unthinkable. To cover up her mistake, she removes the orange tip from the toy. This action is definitely not justifiable.

Cooper knows in his heart what she’s done. And that’s not what Cooper’s all about.

During the internal investigation, Tang, of course, doesn’t mention the cover-up.

But neither does Cooper. He does, however, confront Tang and tells her to go back inside and tell the truth about what she’d done.

Instead, Tang becomes defensive and goes home, where she digs into her pocket and comes out with the plastic, orange gun tip, and drops it into a bowl on a table beside the front door.

Cooper, troubled deeply about Tang, heads straight for his 12-step sponsor and a meeting. Anxiety’s conjuring up old cravings, and I’m pleased he chose this route instead of the alternative.

Tang, well, unfortunately we’re counting down her final days on the show. I’m pretty sad about her leaving because she was a great addition to the show. I only hope that Lucy Liu’s departure isn’t an omen of…No, I’m not going to say it. Let’s end this week on a happy note, with the possibility of a season 5 on our minds…

Southland: Integrity Check

“The average street cop in Los Angeles makes $75,000 a year. It’s not enough.”

Ben is standing in a place that’s all too familiar to veteran cops all across the country. He’s on top of the world—at the very tip of the peak—and he’s balancing on the big toe of one foot. Seasoned officers, officers who’ve been on the job for many years, have been there and done that. They’ve all gone through the “I-just-finished-my-training-and-I-know-more-than-every-other-cop-in-the-world stage.

Sherman thinks he’s the hotshot cop who can save the world from everything and anything. And he’s got Badge Bunnies hopping around him like he’s a human carrot in uniform. But he’s got a lot to learn…a lot. Like discovering what it actually means to be a police officer, and how to truly become a partner to the guy who’s standing beside you while facing a dozen angry, armed gang members. Your partner, the guy who has your back through both the good and the bad.

Nope, being a cop isn’t all running fast, looking cool in uniform, and dodging bullets. First and foremost, of course, it’s about protecting the public, putting their lives before yours. And it’s about trusting your partner and knowing your partner trusts you. Without earning that confidence, well, you may as well start scanning Craigslist for job openings, because you’ll never be a real cop. Never.

And Ben absolutely must realize that the way to earn the trust of the public is not by engaging in a menage-a-jump-out-the-second-story-window-trois with Ima Killu’s wife and her friend. But Ben’s in that “stage.” He’ll learn. They all do. But it takes time, a few hard knocks, and plenty of hurt feelings, and maybe even a couple of official reprimands. And, he’ll probably be on the receiving end of a nasty bite from a rabid bunny before it’s all over.

Officer Sherman has reached the first critical crossroads in what could be a long career. Will he choose the right direction? Well, that’s up to the writers, and so far they’ve done a fantastic job of taking us on the journey. And Ben is allowing us to see that trip through his eyes. A really great job by both the actor and the folks who put this on paper.

Lydia’s on a personal journey of her own. A journey that’s experienced by many female officers. A journey that male officers will probably never fully understand. She’s torn between a career she absolutely loves and the little one inside that she isn’t sure she should even want, at this point. She knows that once she tells the department, they’ll surely put her on some wacky desk job, like filing papers in evidence, or answering phones at the department’s “I’m Calling Because I’m Stupid” hotline. And you know what…wearing a uniform after working in plainclothes for any period of time almost seems like a demotion, even if it’s not. And, those things are hot and uncomfortable!

Lydia demonstrates just how uncomfortable a uniform can be when we see her slide out from behind the wheel for the first time back in uniform.

Sgt. Adams unhooks her seatbelt and leans to her left, getting out of the patrol car. Did you happen to notice the grimace when she made the move to step out? Now that brought back memories. Do you see the space between her belt line and the bottom of her vest? Well, picture a wide and thick gun belt attached to her regular belt, at the top of her pants. Then, imagine as you lean to the side that space between the belt and the vest narrowing until it finally closes…with the soft flesh of your side pinched tightly between! Yes, that’s the cause of the wince. It hurts. Yeah, I know, being pregnant didn’t help any.

Lydia’s next move was to grab the top of the vest that had pushed upward toward her throat. She pulled it out and away from her body, an effort to relieve the irritating claustrophobic choking sensation. Now this is something that you get used to (the vest choke) but officers still do “the grab and pull” all the time, all day long. First, to stop the choke, and second, to allow the oven-like heat that’s trapped between the vest and your skin to escape and be replaced by a bit of fresh, cooler air.

– Cooper and Tang are stuck with a camera crew riding along, capturing their every move and word. That’s a scenario that cops are generally not fond of. They don’t trust the media because the media sometimes paints officers in a bad light, especially when any kind of force is used to subdue suspects.

I have many friends who work in various aspects of the media and it’s always an eye-opener for them when we invite them to attend police training so they can get a feel for why cops do what they do. The absolute biggest opinion-changing eye-opener is when they go through FATS training (firearms training simulator) where they’re faced with actual shoot/don’t shoot scenarios that happen in real time. Their reactions are most often of disbelief, horror that things escalate so quickly, and they’d have been killed if they’d hesitated to use deadly force, which many do…the first time.

Anyway, Cooper and Tang are called to a bakery where there’s a dispute between the owner and a customer. Coop and Tang separate the two (good technique) and then make the customer leave. In the meantime, they work with the man’s wife and the owner to reach a solution. Of course, all this takes place with the man’s young child in the thick of it all. And that, I’m afraid, is often the norm. Children suffer because daddy or mommy can’t control themselves or their actions.

– Sammy attempts to talk to a man whose son was killed in retaliation because he helped the police (Sammy) identify a criminal suspect. The man punches Sammy, blaming him for his son’s death, a death Sammy also feels responsible for causing. Sammy doesn’t fight back out of guilt.

– Ben and Sammy respond to an officer needs assistance call. The officers who needed the help were an oddly-matched pair—a male officer who was rather large and extremely out of shape, and a female officer who, as Sammy described, was, “Five foot and 99lbs soaking wet.” He resented having to come to aid because of their physical limitations.

Now, male or female. each officer should be able to hold their own and not have to call for assistance on calls that shouldn’t require assistance. I feel Sammy’s pain. When you’re trying to arrest a combative suspect and you spend most of your energy protecting someone who could barely lift a 5lb bag of sugar, well, that person is a liability on the street. They could easily get hurt and, their partners will surely be hurt trying to protect them.

I once worked on a shift with a person who was 4’11, weighed 91 lbs, had to sit on a pillow to see over a patrol car steering wheel, and couldn’t pull the trigger on a standard, department-issued weapon because his/her fingers were too short. Now, I ask you, would you feel confident wading into a bar fight among motorcycle gang members with that person as your backup? I’ve done it, and it wasn’t a good feeling. Sammy was right. Some people shouldn’t be cops.

– Ben and Sammy roll up on a group of guys who immediately set their beer bottles and cans on the ground. That’s exactly how it happens in real life. Good scene. And Ben’s searching technique was spot on—have the suspect clasp his hands behind his head, officer grabs the fingers of both hands and slightly leans the guy backward, off balance. Then he starts the pat down with using his free hand, Patting every (I mean EVERY) area of the body, searching for weapons and other contraband.

– When Ben and Sammy first started their shift Ben began a search of their patrol car, looking under the seats, etc. This is done every day, between every shift, by both oncoming officers and those leaving for the day. The purpose of the vehicle search is to locate any contraband that may have been stashed there by suspects who’d been transported in the back seat area/cage. The search is supposed to be conducted after each transport as well. Then, oncoming officers know that anything they find belonged to the last suspect who rode in the car.

Ben thinks Sammy planted/conveniently found a crack pipe in their patrol so he could frame the guy he believed killed a witness to an earlier crime. He accuses Sammy of the illegal and immoral act only to learn later that the pipe was already inside their car, left there from the previous shift. The officers had neglected to search at the end of their watch. Ben attempts to apologize but a lot of damage has been done. He didn’t trust his partner. He didn’t back him…stand by him. Didn’t believe in him. Unlike Sammy who stood by Ben when he punched the girl. Remember?

It will be interesting to see how the tension between the two partners works out. If it works out. That sort of incident makes it extremely difficult to trust your life to someone you’re not sure will be there for you when you need him.

– Cooper and Tang are behind a car. The driver’s nervous and, like many drivers across the country, he starts doing all sorts of dumb things. Black and White Fever is the cop’s name for what happens to drivers who suddenly realize a police car is behind them. They start swerving, braking too often, stopping in odd places, run red lights, and more. So Cooper nailed this one on the head, stating that drivers forget how to drive when a cop car shows up in their rear-view mirror.

_ Lydia earns a spot in the ER when she’s struck in the belly. But the physician assures her that the baby is fine. Lydia, though, is not. And a lone tear rolled down her cheek to let us know that she’s hurting from far deeper pain than the punch in the gut.

Now, regarding Lydia. It was great to see her in uniform and in action last night. Did you notice how the show seemed to fly by from opening credits until the screen went dark at the end? That’s because there were none of those “driving and thinking” scenes to slow us down. No walking around a crime scene talking about feeling sick and sad. Nope. None of that. And I certainly hope the writers remain on this track, because action, realistic action, is what makes this show stand out from all the other cop shows.

Southland is all about the day-to-day action that patrol officers face during their shifts. And that’s the stuff that drives the show’s fan crazy with excitement and enthusiasm.

And talking about realistic action…

How about Tang and knife-wielding woman? Great scene, and she and Cooper were right. They should have shot the woman when she first lunged at Dewey with the knife. But deep inside you never want to do that. You just don’t. So Tang tackled her, hoping to end the situation in the best possible way. It wasn’t her fault the lady was injured.

Then comes Cooper’s fight-for-his life fight scene. Now that was how to insert tension into a TV show. It was real. Very real. If I could’ve crawled into my set to help Coop I would have. And that brings up my final point for the week. These actors take their roles so seriously that their characters come across as real people. And I, for one, am glad that these guys are out there to protect us, even if it’s only for one night each week.



Southland: Legacy

After twenty years on the job, Officer John Cooper has been wondering how his fellow officers will remember him. But right now the only thing he can think about is hanging on.

Cooper, like all people and things on this earth, will eventually reach the end of the line. A hand is on the switch, slowly turning the dial toward dim. His experience is vast, and his knowledge, priceless. Will anyone care after he pulls the pin and retires? Doubtful.

You see, Cooper is realizing that he’s officially one of the “old guys,” a hush-hush title given to officers who’ve been around a long time. The guys who’ve seen and done it all. And it’s a title that even follows a retired cop to his grave.

The old guys have paid their dues, earned their battle scars, and they’ve loved every single minute of their careers, even the outlandish practical joking that occurs among the ranks.

Their years have flown by, and to them it seems like just yesterday when it was they who were telling war stories about “the old guys.” Stories that grew more exciting over the years with each telling. Now it is they, the new generation of old guys, who are subject of the stories.

Cooper is witnessing the changes all around him. The new guys have taken over the role of pranksters, as we saw between Ben and Sammy. Coop’s reached the point where he understands the reasons behind the crimes, instead of merely reacting to them. And we saw this as he talked to the kid standing on the ledge of a highrise, a young man ready to end his life because he couldn’t handle the difficulties and uphill battle of being gay in a largely straight world.

The “old guy” has come to terms with much of his life as a gay police officer, and he summed it all up by saying this to the jumper, “I’ve got a lot of problems, kid. Being gay isn’t one of them.”

Cudlitz plays his role quite well. He delivers the feel of many years of experience as a cop, and the others on the show actually seem to draw from it, just as younger officers do in real life. Now that’s good acting.

Okay, on to the practical joking between Ben and Sammy. First, I must say that sort of thing goes on behind the scenes in every police department. And yes, to the extent we saw in this episode.

Well, unfortunately for you, it’s time for my weekly “I remember when” story. So, like it or not, have a seat in the time machine. I promise, this won’t take long…

Many police officers I worked with thought of themselves as the ultimate practical jokers.

After all, what could be funnier than squirting a thick cloud of pepper spray under a locked restroom door while your partner is in there with his uniform pants around his ankles?

Taking, and hiding, a fellow officer’s patrol car after he left his keys in the ignition while in foot-pursuit of a fleeing suspect, was another favorite trick. Watching him frantically search for the missing vehicle, while wondering how to explain the loss to his supervisor, was hilarious to the pranksters. There were times, however, when the last laugh was on the comedians. Like…

One particular night, a couple of the guys borrowed a department-store mannequin and quietly smuggled it upstairs inside the county jail. There they dressed the mannequin as an inmate, in orange, jail-issue coveralls. The plan was for two of the deputies to make their way down the steps while pretending to fight with the dummy. The scuffle was to end at the office of a graveyard-shift dispatcher who thought of herself as the queen of all jokesters, whose most famous prank was baking homemade Christmas cookies laced with a very strong laxative (being on patrol in the far reaches of the county when “the urge” strikes is no joke!).

The mannequin idea was supposed to scare her into sending out an officer-needs-assistance call; we all expected a good laugh when she realized the joke was finally on her.

So the officers began their descent down the stairwell, yelling and screaming and “fighting” with their prisoner as they neared the dispatcher’s station. When they rounded the corner and were in full view of the poor woman, the “fight” became more intense. The dispatcher stood to see what was causing the disturbance and, as they expected, she panicked—big time. Just as she reached for the microphone to call for assistance, the head fell off the mannequin. The wide-eyed dispatcher watched in horror as it tumbled down the steps and rolled to a stop at her feet.

Thinking the deputies had decapitated the poor inmate, she promptly fainted and struck her head on the concrete floor. An ambulance had to be called, an accident report had to be completed, and the sheriff had to be notified—at 3:00 a.m.

The dispatcher was fine, but when the sheriff arrived, real heads rolled.

So there you have it, this stuff is how cops keep their sanity in check after dealing with the horrors of society. And Sammy and Ben sure gave us a great peek into that side of the job—stealing Sammy’s towel, the “I’m pregnant” girlfriend, birds in the car, and the “Squeeze my hand.” Classics!

Even the humor while dealing with an out-of-control subject, a less-than-tall man who strongly resisted arrest, was spot on. “Where are you taking me?” Ben, “We’re off to see the Wizard.” Politically correct? Of course not. Realistic? Yep.

By the way, Ben’s change in attitude is absolutely normal. Rookies tend to be on their best behavior when riding with their training officers, as was the case with Ben and Cooper. However, once the training is over and their jobs are more secure (a rookie-in-training can be dismissed at any time), rookies tend to spread their wings a bit, letting their true personalities emerge. That’s what we’re seeing with Ben. Also, rookies are sort of like kids, they tend to mimic the people they’re around. And Ben is definitely becoming and extension of Sammy.

And let’s not forget Ben’s comment, “Badge Bunnies are predators. I don’t go after them, they come after me.” Now where have you heard that before? Yep, right here on this blog. I tried to tell you guys…

Lydia and Ruben land a murder case involving a father who killed his own son and then attempted to cover his tracks. The crime scene clues all pointed to dear old dad who’d done a poor job of concealing the evidence and his guilt. Actually, this looked like a case of the suspect wanting to be caught. Happens all the time.

I worry, though, that Lydia’s pregnancy is going to slow the story. This show’s own legacy is its intense wall-to-wall, nonstop action. Lately, though, Lydia’s “I’m sick and I’m not admitting why” scenes are taking us out of the excitement that normally keeps fans on the edge of their seats. Still, she’s great. I’ll say it again. Regina King is great, and she’s playing the part well. I’m just a little concerned. It’s in the back of my mind that this an unnecessary stumbling block for the viewers. We’ll see how it plays out. I have immense faith in the writers, directors, and producers. Notice I didn’t mention the actors? Goes without saying that they’re all fantastic.

The CoopTang duo is flagged down by a frantic woman claiming her son has been abducted. Doesn’t take long to learn that she believes her son is none other than Jesus Christ. Coop’s “old guy” response when the woman revealed the identity of her precious child was priceless. He calmly said, “You must be very proud.” Who wouldn’t be, right?

By the way, have you noticed Lucy Liu/Tang’s habit of resting her right hand on her weapon? I told you she’s a natural for this role. But don’t worry, she’s not trigger happy. It’s just that the gun is right there in that perfect location, and cops have a tendency to take advantage of the built-in armrest.

– Sammy and Ben respond to a murder case where the victim is found dead behind the wheel of a car. When they ask  for assistance from bystanders, of course no one offers anything, not a peep. This is how it really is. People just do not want to get involved. Of course, when you get them off to the side away from everyone, then your chances of locating a witness improves quite a bit. It’s the “snitches wind up in ditches” theory that keeps most mouths zipped tightly closed.

“I’m hormonal and I’ve got a gun. Don’t mess with me,” says Lydia Adams.

Ask any male cop who’s ever worked around a female officer just how many times he’s heard that statement, and I’ll bet he couldn’t count the number on his fingers and toes.

– Cooper and Tang stop a car for speeding. The driver instantly starts spouting the same old speech that cops hear day-in and day-out. “Don’t you have more important crimes to investigate?” No, Buddy, there aren’t. You see, cops are busy all over the country working car crashes involving dead pedestrians because the drivers were speeding, texting, eating bowls of cereal, applying makeup, and reading the paper.

And, as usual, we’ve come full circle. Cooper and gang are unwinding at a bar, and everyone is having a great time. But it’s late, especially for one of the “old guys.” So Cooper is the first to leave. Tang follows him outside to tell him that the kid he saved from the suicide attempt had made another attempt and that time achieved his goal. Well, Coop’s already heard the news on the radio, so it wasn’t a shock. He tells Tang that his job was to save people, and that he couldn’t dwell on what they did afterward. That’s great advice for any cop. If they did otherwise they’d probably wind up at the end of a dirt road sucking on the end of their service weapons.

Tang returns to the crew inside the bar leaving Cooper standing outside. He hears Dewey telling a war story, one of his. A notable moment in his 22-year career (8 more and he’ll earn that 6th hash mark/stripe on his sleeve—one for every 5 years served).

The day you hear that first tall tale about some remarkable or crazy thing you’d done during your time on the job is when you know you’ve officially been tagged as “one of the old guys.”

Welcome to the club, John Cooper.

Southland: Identity

“LAPD officers spend every shift trying to help people who often don’t even know they need help. Some days the trying works better than others.”

When you’re at home watching episodes of Southland, thinking about the excitement, action, and gritty real-life scenes, there’s a cop out there, somewhere, who’s just hopped from her patrol car to chase down a six-foot-tall loser who robbed a liquor store by beating the clerk to death with a baseball bat. In another precinct, two officers are in a foot pursuit of a child rapist. In the county, deputies are running through the dark woods chasing a man who just shot and killed his wife and kids.

“He’s running!” Two words that send an officer’s adrenaline into high gear.

Through dark, blind alleys, over chain-link fences, behind a row of houses in the worst of worst neighborhoods, across a parking lot into a muddy field, around and through parked cars. One has a gun. A flash of metal? The chases go on and on and on. Every day. Every night. Every week. They run and run and run. All while you’re at home eating popcorn while watching Southland, thinking, is this stuff for real? Do officers really do the things we see on Southland? Are their personal stories for real? There can’t be that much action during a single shift…right?

Well, I can sum up answers to all your questions with a single word. Yes.

And that realism began last night with Lydia chasing a young girl, a murder suspect who managed to slice Lydia’s arm with a knife. But we also saw Lydia going through a very personal experience. She’s pregnant and that’s something that will definitely affect her career. Actually, it already has. Imagine fighting crime with a serious case of morning sickness. Think seeing someone else’s guts splattered on a ceiling is fun while your own insides are churning like a strawberry smoothie in a blender?

You see, police work is not like the typical nine-to-five assembly line job, where the happy mother-to-be can take a break when she needs it. Or take it easier than normal while still being productive in her normal job. Nope. A cop absolutely must be able to instantly run faster, jump higher, be stronger, and dodge speeding bullets…at all times, every minute of the day.

For obvious reasons, a pregnant woman could not and should not engage in a toe-to-toe battle with a 300lb knife-wielding, drug-crazed man. No, Lydia’s got some serious desk duty in her future, and that’s just not her style. So I’m anxious to see how she copes with answering phones and rubber-stamping forms all day.

Ben is also going through a few life-changes of his own. He can’t escape the “punching-the-teenage-girl-in-the-nose cloud over his head.” And his partner, Sammy, insists that Ben distance himself from his party-hard lifestyle by moving into the “Land of the Blue,” the section of the suburbs where many of his fellow cops reside.

This episode, Identity, deals with the two sides of police work, the side you all see, the actions of the person wearing the badge and the uniform, and the internal side of that person. The human qualities of the police officer. And we see how all that unfolds during the course of a single shift. Yes, my friends, this was a glimpse, a brief peek, at what it’s like to work the streets as police officer during the course of only one day. Think you’ve seen a lot in your lifetime. Well, try on these shoes…

Cooper and Tang, CoopTang, Tangooper, Tooper, whatever the moniker of the week, is a really good crime-fighting duo. I can see them in any patrol car, in any department in the country.

Michael Cudlitz has really poured himself into this role. So much so that, I think, he’s even gone the extra mile by doing what I’ve seen many cops do, well, the ones who hit the weights pretty hard sometimes do this. It’s a little trick that’s used to make your already decent-looking biceps look even bigger and better, a bit of intimidation factor for the bad guys. You know, “if he looks big and strong I’ll back down quicker.” And that trick is to reduce the size of the uniform sleeve at the point where the bulging muscle is first exposed. The shirt is then tighter around the bicep, making the muscle appear larger. I’ve seen this done many, many times. And, some even pack those large frames into a size too-small-shirt for the same effect.

So…did he, or no? Michael…is there a seamstress in your life? Or, have you achieved the 22″ bicep status?

But, even if that’s the case, Cudlitz has gone the extra mile. He’s fit, healthy, and he’s got decent guns even if he decided to hide them under a normal-size uniform sleeve. One thing’s for sure, though. He’s working out.

Cooper and Tang find themselves on an almost endless quest to help a homeless man, Tom, a marine who’d unfortunately lost contact with much of reality, get off the streets and into a shelter. The shelter kicked the man out because he’d lost his ID (someone had stolen it). Tang, whose father was a marine, was totally obsessed with helping the man, putting his needs above everything else that came up, including the mangled body of someone who’d been hit by a train. Cooper playfully argued with sheriff’s deputies about which department had jurisdiction over the case (part of the badly mangled body was in L.A. while the other section(s) were splattered on the “other side of the tracks.” Tang, on the other hand, ignored the body, the deputies, and Cooper, by spending her time on the telephone talking to people who wouldn’t help the homeless man (Tom) with obtaining new identification cards and papers.

And then there was the “invisible man” who stopped CoopTang in the street, professing his love for their patrol car. The man, who was obviously on vacation from another planet, decided to show Cooper his karate expertise (not). But, Cooper wasn’t having any of it and added another nose-print-trophy to the hood of the patrol car. Yep, slammed the guy onto the hood (that’s a favorite tool and trick). It’s easier to cuff someone who’s resisting when you’re able to hold them against something, such as a car, on the ground, against the side of a building. It also prevents the guy from turning around, a move that would allow him the chance to take a swing at the officer. So, no, cops aren’t trying to hurt the suspect by pushing him down onto the car hood. Instead, the car, etc. is simply used as a tool to help safely effect the arrest. Now you know why all the tiny, round dents on the hoods of many police car. And you thought it hail damage!

Sammy and Ben also have their share of calls—a female murder victim for starters. But they see an assault taking place and jump out to chase the suspect. During the chase, Sammy loses sight of Ben in an alley, but hears a noise coming from behind a dumpster. He draws his weapon and suddenly there’s movement. And that something comes toward him. The attacker? BANG! Sammy shoots. But it’s not the attacker. It’s a large dog, and Sammy feels terrible. He removes his t-shirt to apply pressure to the animal’s gunshot wound. The dog is taken to the vet where Sammy agrees to pay for life-saving surgery. He also plans to adopt the dog.

Needless to say, Sammy takes a lot of teasing from his co-workers, including the always comical Dewey who passed by Sammy while making barking sounds. And Ben’s Scooby imitation…Rerry Runny, rusn’t it Rammy?

Ben and Sammy are on patrol when they see two kids, gang members, so they roll up and jump out. The kids run. Don’t these people know they can’t outrun Sammy and Ben? Anyway, this was a favorite tactic of mine. When they run you chase. Why do they run? Because they’re wanted or because they’re holding something illegal, like drugs or guns. So we chase. We catch them. And we arrest them for possession. Had they not run, well, there’d have been no real reason to search them. So…as usual, dumb crooks.

The duo, Ben and Sammy, are summoned to a building where a woman says someone inside has a knife and is going to kill someone else. So, again, they run inside.

Okay, this is where you need to use a little bit of slow motion because I’m going to point out something that’s sort of interesting. A mini workshop.

During the yelling and screaming (“Put down the knife!”), Ben sees the body of a young girl floating in the water. He runs to the edge of the pool, stripping his gun belt on the way, and dives in to save the girl (reminds me of the water rescue training at the Virginia State Police Academy where cadets had to “rescue” a cinder block from the bottom of the pool).

All right, back to the lesson. Pencils and notebooks handy?

If you’ve read my book on police procedure (page 44) you know that officers wear “belt keepers,” thin straps that circle around the gun belt attaching it to the regular belt that everyone wears to hold up their pants. Without the keepers the gun belt would/could simply fall to the ground, especially when the officer is running or doing anything else that involves moving. Therefore, officers normally utilize at least four keepers, two somewhere on the front and two on the back.

Belt keepers positioned between the two handcuff pouches

Well, you can clearly see that Ben has keepers on when he enters the building, but as he strips the gun belt before diving into the pool, guess what? Yep…no keepers. There’s no way he could drop the belt that quickly had the keepers been snapped into place in their normal position. However, it would have slowed the action had he stopped to unsnap the four keepers and then unhook the buckle in front. But, officers are able to do this rather quickly in real life. Don’t believe it? Try it after eating a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast at 4am and see how quickly your gun belt comes off at 5am…

But, Ben rescues the girl, performs CPR and she lives. Sure, I said that as if the act were no big deal and you know why? Because this sort of thing does indeed happen every single day. I’ve done it and so have many other officers. In fact, I once performed CPR on a drug overdose victim, and forever after I was on the receiving end of Dewey-like teasing about locking lips with the unconscious, unresponsive guy. And he lived.

Actually, the man lived long enough for me to respond to a drunk and disorderly call a few months later where he was the drunk who, in fact, became more disorderly when he recognized me. Unfortunately for me, he, too, was a practical joker and planted a big wet kiss right on my lips just as I was about to snap on the cuffs. And I’ve never heard the end of that one to this day. However, unfortunately for the suspect, he died of a drug overdose a few weeks after “the kiss.” I wasn’t around that time for a second attempt at CPR.

Back to Lydia. She’s troubled about how the pregnancy will affect her job. She’s worried about being a mother. She’s worried that abortion may be the only answer to her troubles. And she’s worried about the girl who sliced her arm with a knife. She’s also worried about the girl’s mother who confessed to killing the man her daughter murdered. Lydia knows the mother confessed to protect her child. And Lydia finds peace with knowing that’s what being a mother is all about, doing whatever it takes to protect your child.

Yes, this episode was all about being a real cop. What they face each and every day. Call after call. Horror after horror. Pain, both physical and emotional. In uniform and out.

You know, there’s a reason why Regina King (Lydia) is an award-winning actor. And this show is part of that reason. She’s believable. I believe what she’s telling me and I believe her emotions. I believe her character cares for the suspects and victims on this show. I believe King because I’ve lived that life, and what she’s portraying is that life. And that’s what each of the Southland actors do. They make us believe.

What more could we ask of a TV show?

And they, as Tang said, “Never leave anyone behind.”

*Photos by TNT Television

Southland: Community

The City of Los Angeles is made up of over one-hundred separate and distinct ethnic, racial, and religious communities. L.A. cops have to navigate all of them…if they want to survive.

Community…a side of your sweet little hometown you never knew existed. The part of town where survival is a way of life, and that doesn’t include soccer practice, ballet recitals, and shopping for things you don’t absolutely need. It’s that place where you don’t dare go once the sun disappears in the afternoon. And if you do find yourself accidentally passing through, well, you lock your doors and get the hell out as fast as you can, not even stopping for red lights. Yes, it’s that very real place where drug dealers and gangs control everything; where residents don’t dare go outside after dark; where kids go hungry, and bleed, and die.

I used to patrol one of those neighborhoods, and yes, I’ve stood nose-to-nose with gang members who had no respect for my badge and uniform. And I knew that they could send a bullet my way at any time. Sure, I’d been on the receiving end of numerous “warning shots,” but it was a place I couldn’t leave. The people there depended on me to keep them safe. So I stayed and I fought the bad guys and I laughed with the good guys. But I haven’t been back since I left the business a few years ago.

Well, I hadn’t been back until last night when Southland took us all there. And what a ride it was.

Cooper and Tang. What can I say? Sounds like the title of a new TV series, doesn’t it (Premiering tonight, TNT’s new hit show, Cooper and Tang).

Anyway, last night’s episode opened with Cooper and Tang rolling up at the scene of a house fire. Coop hops out and shouts, “Where is he? Where IS he!” And the answers to who and where, well, we’d have to wait on those, as usual. And I like the way the show sets us up like this at the beginning, leaving the audience with the opening scene bouncing around inside our heads during the entire episode.

Ben, Ben, Ben. He still can’t get away from punching that girl in the nose, even while between the sheets with his latest, as Sammy put it, “Ben Bunny.” He’s getting mixed reviews about the snoot-punching, from one woman (the Ben Bunny) who is turned on by Ben’s rough side, to another young woman who tells Ben to pick on someone his own size. And that “lady” further emphasized her point by telling him that she’d “knock his b****-a** out.” So there.

For the record, Badge Bunny is the original term that Sammy transitioned into Ben Bunny. A Badge Bunny is someone who has a total, often obsessive, fascination with men (or women) in uniform. The fascination is often so extreme that officers find themselves as stalking victims. Police academy instructors warn new officers about Badge Bunnies. Supervisors warn new officers about the dangers of becoming involved with Badge Bunnies. And other officers sometimes warn their new partners about Badge Bunnies. Why? Because the fatally-attracted Bunnies sometimes follow the officers around while they’re at work, from call to call. They show up at the department, bringing gifts, baked goods, and cards and flowers. They send things in the mail (personal, pre-worn clothing – yep, that particular piece of clothing), etc.

Now, not all “Badge Bunnies” are over the top with their love of a person in uniform. To some, it’s a normal attraction. But the others…WHEW!

Sammy just can’t seem to let go of his grudge against career bad guys, the ones who hurt people with their every action. So he does whatever it takes, legally (well, teetering on the edge between legal and illegal) to get that vermin off the street. And, if that sometimes involves a little revenge for the death of his former partner, then so be it.

I must say that Shawn Hatosy (Sammy) is brilliant as this character. And I’m pleased that he’s back in uniform because he really excels in this role. Working with a few “Sammy’s” over the years gave me a unique perspective into his character…they all want to do their job and do it well. They know the business inside and out, and they’re ten-feet-tall-and-bullet-proof. Not scared of anything or anybody. When I assembled a team to conduct high-risk entries for drug raids, I wanted as many Sammy’s as I could find to go with me. I’d take this Sammy with me too. And I wouldn’t have to worry about my back, not even for a second.

Lydia and Ruben are called to work a possible homicide, a woman’s body found beneath a bridge. Lydia takes one look and says, “Wasn’t quick and it wasn’t painless. Whoever did this had a lot of rage inside them.” She’s right. Lots of physical damage to flesh and tissue, such as multiple stab wounds, indicates rage—the killer was angry with the victim, or the victim reminded the killer of something that caused him his own personal pain. Lydia also noticed the victim’s tan lines, a great indicator that her jewelry had been taken by her killer, or someone else, a scavenger, had removed it, postmortem.

CoopTang gets a call about a burglary-in-progress. They respond and catch the guy inside the home. The thug runs outside and jumps to the ground below and runs away. The officers  are questioning the young woman who reported the burglary when her father, a Jewish man, walks up and tries to end the questioning. The crime occurred in a strict Orthodox Jewish home on Saturday, and the woman’s father wanted nothing to do with anything that went against his religious beliefs. The daughter, however, was determined to help catch the guy who’d stolen her family’s possessions, so she takes a ride with the CoopTang team, hoping to spot the crook. And they do, and they find her belongings in the trunk of his vehicle.

I’ve done this many, many times in the past—take someone for a ride, hoping to spot and identify a crook. And normally, if and when you spot the bad guy, the witness/victim often offers and sometimes tries to dish out a little “street justice.”

The scene where Tang and Cooper confront the thief would make a great training film. If you have the show recorded, go to the frames where Cooper is talking to the suspect and Tang is standing off to the side. She’s standing in a position that’s textbook-perfect.

Gun side away from the suspect. Weight distributed properly, with one foot forward, knee slightly bent. A little more weight on the back foot. Gun hand at ready. Non-gun hand at her belt buckle with the thumb resting at the buckle (this keeps the free hand from doing what comes natural…going in the pocket). The free hand is also instantly ready to fend off an attack, or to grab tools from her belt, if needed.

By the way, Lucy Liu is absolutely great in this role. She is a natural-born cop. Well (I’ll settle back to earth for a moment), I guess she, like the others on this show, is a really good actor. And I doubt she’d trade her earnings for a cop’s paycheck. But if she ever finds herself out of work…

I have to say it again, the attention to detail on the show is incredible.

Ben and Sammy are assigned to sit across the street from a gathering of people, many of whom are known thugs/criminals, including “the ruler of the neighborhood,” a thug named Crawford. The duo, Sammy and Ben, are there to show a police presence. Yep, it’s a crappy assignment, especially when you’ve been ordered to NOT interfere, knowing that all sorts of felony arrests are within your grasp.

Sammy sees a rival gang member’s car pass by, taunting Crawford’s entourage. So, when a call becomes available, Sammy takes it, knowing that the two gangs would probably clash once the patrol car is out of sight. Again, a little bit of justice…Sammy style.

Now, I once was took it upon myself to clean up a neighborhood like this one. The elderly residents were scared, coming outside only during the morning hours when they knew the bad guys were sleeping. I assembled a team of several officers. I mean several officers, dozens of cops from multiple jurisdictions. I also asked a few canine handlers to bring along their biggest, meanest, nastiest dogs. You know the ones, the dogs with teeth like daggers and really loved the taste of fresh drug dealer meat.

Once I had the team together we hit the streets, on foot. We walked through the neighborhood, pushing the crooks out. And boy did we ever rack up on finding dope and guns merely lying on the ground for the taking. It was like a narcotics/firearms Easter egg hunt.

Anyway, the “Crawford” of this particular neighborhood decided he’d had enough (we were ruining his business) and came out to confront me. Oh, I forgot to mention that I’d sent word to him that I was coming for him..

So my personal Crawford and I experienced a Sammy and Crawford nose-to-nose discussion. But, when this guy threatened me and put his grubby little hands on me, well, you saw the scene last night where Sammy politely used Crawford’s head to tap out a little Morse code on the telephone pole, right? Yep, I did the same to my guy, using a 4×4 stop sign post instead. So, it wasn’t long before the good folks had their neighborhood back, but it took lots of manpower and lots of long, long nights of battling it out with lots of people who had no respect for anything or anyone but themselves.

Okay, back to Sammy and Crawford…

Crawford’s rivals drop by and a large shootout occurs, but Crawford and a buddy manage to survive. The two crooks run from Sammy and Ben (don’t these guys know not to run from these two track stars!). You know, I once had a trainee back when I was a FTO (field training officer) who could run like a deer. If I saw a suspect running from us all I had to do was open the passenger door and “release the hound.” The rookie’s feet hit the ground in high gear and, by the time I’d managed to amble over, he’d have the guy on the ground ready to handcuff. Ah, the good ‘ol days…

So, Sammy catches Crawford, handcuffs him to a telephone pole (the on-the-ground, palm-up handcuffing technique was pretty good, by the way), and then set out to help his partner. Now, normally you don’t handcuff anyone to anything and then leave them there for the buzzards to pick clean. However, Sammy’s partner, who, by the way, is still considered a rookie, was in a foot pursuit of a possible murderer. He’s lost all contact with Ben, sight and sound, so his number one priority at that point was to assist/help/save/rescue, his partner.

This was a real, life-threatening situation, folks. Therefore, Sammy did the right thing. And, as a bonus, Crawford was turned into a skewer by the very people he’d been bullying for so long. Sure, a cop’s job is to protect everyone, including the bad guys. But Ben was priority number one. Crawford’s death was an unfortunate circumstance that he’d placed himself in by running.

So, after nearly an hour of holding the safety strap inside the LAPD cruisers, we’re winding down. The shift is over and Sammy and Ben are in a cop bar, unwinding. And Sammy (un)officially presents Ben the DCA (Dumb Cop Award) for stupidity above and beyond the call of duty. Sammy then crowned him with a pointed IDIOT cap, a fitting ceremony for the officer who punched a teenage girl in the nose while on camera. Yep, the award was for being on camera when he popped the girl who’d assaulted him, not for the actual hit.

And, after the full circle around the city, we’re back with Cooper and Tang who’ve responded to the house fire, a real inferno at this point. And the opening questions are finally answered.

Who—a child rapist. Where—the home of the rapist. Why? Because finales end that way.

What a fantastic, realistic show.

* Want to fact check what you’ve seen on Southland? You might want to try this:

Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland

Southland: Underwater

Cops routinely find themselves under water. The best manage to keep their heads above the surface. But even for a strong swimmer like Ben Sherman the undertow can be tricky.

Ben finds himself in a situation where he’s surrounded by a large group of unruly young people. There’s bumping and shoving and name-calling. Things begin to get out of hand. He’s pushed by a young woman who he immediately places under arrest. Then, suddenly, another woman slaps Ben directly in his rookie face. What’d he do? How’d he react? Well, we had to wait until later in the episode to find out, but I, for one, knew exactly what he’d do. Yep. Been there, done that…sort of.

It’s an eye-opening moment for a young police officer when he’s assaulted for the first time. Sure, he trains and trains and trains for that moment, but nothing could prepare him for the shock that comes with being on the receiving end of a hearty face-slap, a punch, or a big ‘ol cheek-splattering wad of gooey saliva.

I remember that day, my “first time” and remember it well. I’d been on the streets, still very much a rookie, for approximately six months when I arrested a very petite young woman for a drug offense. She looked quite timid and sweet. Her hair was silky and she had eyes like a doe deer. Her hands were tiny. Her voice, soft like velvet. And her cheeks were rosy, like those of a China doll. And I recall thinking that, stupidly, I’d remove the cuffs while I questioned her. After all, what could that frail woman do to a big guy like me. Well, let me tell you, that sweet little doe-eyed %&^*$ slapped me into next week the second the cuffs came off. There was no pain, just a lot of really bright, white light and a ton of shock, surprise, and hope that no one saw her do it. Then came the swearing and spitting. Lots of spitting. She was doing the spitting but it was I who was doing the most cussing.

But it doesn’t end there. After that first shocking moment comes the next sweet little woman, or innocent liitle boy, a drug user down on his luck who robs a store to feed his kids and his habit, a poor elderly lady who shoplifts so she can eat, a drug crazed man who assaults his own parents, hungry kids, starving animals, guns, knives, a little girl…raped, murder after murder after murder. Mutilated bodies. Crying children…and yes, you soon find yourself underwater, struggling to keep your head above the surface.

There’s a new tough-as-nails captain this week, a captain who comes across during his welcome-to-my-shift-speech as wanting to kick ass first and take names later. But his ideas are sound ideas. They’re just plain good, old-fashioned police work—get out of your cars and walk, meet and talk to the people in your assigned areas, squeeze your snitches for information. Being proactive is what it’s all about. Don’t sit back and wait for crimes to happen. Stop them before they start.

The captain also passes out McDonald’s job applications to everyone, stating something like, “Each time you screw up fill out a line on your application.” He’s telling his troops that after a few goofs they’ll be needing new jobs because he won’t put up with many mistakes.

Lydia is called to work a hit and run case where all the team has to go on is a severed hand that’s still attached to a very expensive purse. After tracking down the suspect’s car, Detective Adams makes a gruesome discovery—body parts, including the head of the deceased, embedded among the radiator, water pump, and other mechanical parts located beneath the SUV.

Turns out the driver, a well-to-do citizen, had been driving drunk and claimed he thought he’d hit a coyote. He was promptly arrested and placed inside a patrol car where he immediately began to cry, the normal display of remorse that comes with a suspect’s realization that jail is in the immediate future. Funny how that remorse normally doesn’t appear until the cuffs go on.

Sammy and Ben decide to take the Captain’s advice and shake down a hooker for information, using a crack pipe they found in her purse as leverage to prompt her into cooperating. She gives up a little information and they allow her to go on her way.

I’m nearly convinced that these guys were cops in previous lives because the attention to detail in this show is incredible. Yes, that’s it’s done on the streets. It’s a day-in-day-out process of trying to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. And you do it by talking to people. Squeezing the snitches for information. and, as Lydia’s new partner will soon find out, by telling a few lies to get the information you need.

Lydia and Ruben, her new partner, are investigating a murder, an investigation that led them to home of the suspect’s grandmother, played by Marla Gibbs (Sorry, but I cannot see Ms. Gibbs without expecting to see George Jefferson come strutting around a corner. She’s a fine actor but she’ll always be Florence Johnston to me. But she looks fantastic, especially since she now 80). Hey, weren’t those two on 227? And wasn’t Adams’ character’s name Brenda on that show? A nice injection of humor, since “Brenda” was the name this little old lady kept calling Detective Adams.

Ruben appears a little shocked to learn that detectives sometimes must present a bit of false information when working a case. Still, he finds himself in a position where he might have to pull the trigger on the murder suspect, another unfortunate and unpleasant aspect of the job.

But Lydia solves that problem in a hurry by tackling the guy, an action that sends them both into a swimming pool (you see the ongoing theme, right?).

Ben appears to be a little on edge in this episode. Things just aren’t going his way. And that bit of bad luck continues when he chases a bad guy into a back yard where the thug swings a baseball bat, trying to hit a home run with Ben’s head. This scene is a familiar one to all street cops—a suspect hides inside a house, the homeowners and everyone inside tells the officers they haven’t seen the guy and they don’t know him. Then the guy pops up and runs. It’s like hearing a politician tell a lie…happens every single day.

Cooper and Tang (Lucy Liu is a great addition to this show, by the way) find themselves on the receiving end of the “odd” situations this week. We all have them, too. You know, the “Elvis-is-hiding-behind-the-cheesecake-in-my-refrigerator” type of calls.

1. The new partners roll up on a flaming pedestrian who’d ignited while smoking meth and watching porn in the back room of an “adult” store.

2. They roll up on a nude guy jogging along the sidewalk. Tang tells the guy it’s illegal to do that in the city, but it’s okay to run naked on the freeway. So he thanks her and heads onto an on-ramp. Tang turns to Cooper and says, “He’s CHP’s problem now.”

This scene may have seemed a bit silly to non-cops, but “back in the day,” and I’m not saying it’s right, I know of a few times when officers transported “unwanted problem people” to the next county and simply dropped them off.

3. A guys steps in front of Cooper and Tang’s patrol car and shouts, “I’m not going back to jail.” When Cooper steps out of the car the man tackles him. Tang jumps to Coop’s aid and begins to wail on the guy using her ASP (expandable baton). But it has no effect on the wild man.

Backup arrives (Dewey) and promptly deploys his Taser. The three of them finally subdue and cuff the guy.

Another realistic scene. I can’t tell you how many times cops are placed in this position, fighting to gain control of very strong and powerful people. And it sometimes takes two or three or more officers to subdue a combative suspect.

– Ben and Sammy respond to a call where an elderly woman fired a shot at her neighbor. When the officers approach the front door Ben thinks he sees a weapon and yells, “Gun!” and the two beat a hasty retreat to the safety of their patrol car. The woman fires a couple of rounds through the window and a standoff begins.

Captain Rucker arrives and he’s there with a plan. He pretends to be a preacher and approaches the door holding a Bible over his head, quoting scripture. But she’s not buying it, so Ben grabs the woman’s cat and offers to give it to her in exchange for her gun. She pretends to agree and lays down her rifle, but pulls out a secondary handgun. The captain promptly gives her a blast from his shotgun, terminating the threat who, by the way, was wearing body armor.

Several years ago, I was faced with a similar situation. I was at home watching TV when I suddenly heard shouting outside. I opened the front door and saw three patrol cars, lights flashing, and five or six uniformed officers crouching down behind them. Now, my across-the-street neighbors were elderly. Very nice people. So I was a bit puzzled until I saw the man on their front porch who was aiming a revolver at the man who lived there. A closer look told me that the suspect was actually the homeowner’s son, a guy I knew to have a pretty bad drug problem. Later I learned that the son had come by and asked for money, and when his parents refused he pulled the gun and began making threats.

Well, I knew the son, had encounters with him in the past (a few minor arrests, etc.) so I walked over to patrol officers to see what I could do to help out. By the way, I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and no shoes. I was in for the night. Comfortable.

Anyway, I called out to the guy. He promptly told me to F-off. And that really didn’t set well with me. Neither did the look of terror on the old couple’s faces. So I did a dumb thing. I walked up to the porch and headed straight for the suspect. He started to turn toward me but, before he even realized what I was doing, I, well, let’s just say only a second passed before I had the gun and he was lying on the porch floor. After it was over I realized what a totally stupid thing I’d done. Hell, I didn’t even have a gun with me.

The point I’m trying to make with this anecdotal babble is that the things you see on Southland, no matter how “out there” they seem to you, are quite real. This stuff happens in real life. While you’re at work or at home sleeping, cops are doing what you see on this show.

And that, my friends, brings us back to Ben and the young woman who slapped him. Well, Ben, feeling overwhelmed by the crowd that was closing in on him and, because the woman had landed a blow to his cheek and to his ego and, because he’d never experienced this before, well, he punched the woman squarely in her face. Right on the snoot with a closed fist.

The scene was captured on video, of course, and Ben is called into the captain’s office to explain his actions, and Sammy defends him.

Outside, Ben thanks Sammy for sticking up for him. Sammy, the experienced cop, says, “You always have your partner’s back…” Ben smiles. But Sammy then completes his statement. “…even when he’s wrong. You kinda lost your cool. We don’t fire back because we’re mad, we fire back to save lives.”

What a powerful and very true statement. Saving lives is the name of the game, no matter how hard you have to paddle to keep your head above water.

Yes, Ben has filled in the first line of his McDonald’s application. But we all do. We’re human.

* This is the best darn cop show to ever hit a TV screen. And all I can say is, “You go Cheo Coker. You write one fine police story.” The same goes for the all the writers. And my hat’s off to the crew and directors as well. And a big nod to the actors who go above and beyond to show their audience a side to police work that’s not usually seen…the truth.


Southland: Wednesday

“Cops wake up every morning different from the rest of us. Our worst nightmare is just their Wednesday.”

Wednesday. Just another day for cops. How true. And one particular Wednesday is forever embedded in my mind. It was a hot August Wednesday with humidity so thick and heavy that going outdoors was almost like wading chest-deep into a pool of scalding hot water. It was the kind of hot that makes your sweat perspire.

I started the day as a detective on my way to testify before the grand jury about a half-dozen or so drug cases, a vicious assault, a kidnapping, an attempted murder, and a convoluted murder-for-hire scheme. But I never made it to court. Instead, I wound up in a scary shootout with a 22-year-old man. Yes, instead of sitting for hours waiting to tell a group of grand jurors about crack cocaine sales, a dumb businessman who’d hired an even dumber man to kill his wife, a brutal stabbing, and a young woman who’d been taken taken from her home at knife-point, raped, and then hidden away in locked closet two counties away, I found myself exchanging gunfire—68 rounds to be exact—with a guy who had no intention of surrendering to police.

Unfortunately, I killed the guy. And, like the cast of Southland, I’d just worked another Wednesday.

Ben and Sammy hit the streets running again this year and we first see the fleet-footed duo as they roll up on a man beating a woman. The attacker sees the patrol car and does what they all do…turns and runs. And then, as they say, it was on! The new season of the most realistic cop show to ever hit a TV screen had begun.

Cooper is back on the streets. His back surgery is behind him—pun intended (we saw the scar to prove it)—and he has a new partner, Jessica Tang, played by Lucy Liu. Liu, by the way, fit nicely with the rest of the cast. Her portrayal of a street cop was, well, let’s say she did a great job dealing with the everyday, spur-of-the-moment calls.

She did a fine job of showing what it’s like to be a woman in uniform, dealing with the thugs and vermin of the world, while having to deal with the gender-biased vermin who also wear a uniform.

Tang comes to the show complete with her own baggage and I’m looking forward to the day she has to confront her troubles. Believe me, all cops have those moments where they face a fear or two, and Southland writers somehow know about these hidden secrets, and they’re not afraid to show them to the world.

Detective Lydia Adams finds one of her informants at her front door, asking for help. The woman, a drug addict, fears that the person(s) she snitched on is/are going to retaliate.

Lydia does what we all do, gives in and helps—a place to hide and some money. Well, as always (I’ve been burnt on this one many, many times, but my soft heart wouldn’t let me quit handing out cash hoping they’d buy food for themselves or their kids), the informant spent the money on drugs, got busted in the act, and claimed to be there “working” for Adams, making drug buys. If I had a dollar for every time that’s happened..well, I wouldn’t have anywhere close to the amount of I-feel-sorry-for-you cash I’d doled out over the years…but you get the point. Yes, cops can be a little tender-hardhearted, even though they know better.

Regina Adams (Lydia) does a wonderful job of showing the kinder, softer side of police officers, leaving the grittier side to the rest of the cast. She’s as tough as a nail, a hard-as-steel nail with a soft marshmallow center. And sometimes that’s a good trait in a police officer.

Okay, let’s hit the high points of this explosive episode.

– Cooper and Tang stop a car that recklessly pulled out in front of their patrol car. The driver, a young man, refuses to get out of the car after Officer Tang orders him out. Cooper leans in the passenger window and offers the guys a gentle suggestion, “You can go home with a ticket or go to jail with my foot in your a**.” Well, that’s pretty much how it goes, folks. At some point, after the “pretty pleases” have ceased to be successful, it’s time to take charge. They don’t comply with a lawful order, then it’s time for the “foot in the a**.

My wife rode with me at work one night, a Christmas Eve. I was shift supervisor at the time and received a call that two officers were experiencing trouble getting a man out of his car. He was drunk, disorderly, and refusing to get out. I pulled up, walked over to the driver’s window and asked him nicely to remove his seat belt and step outside. He cursed me a few times and said through clenched teeth, “Make me.” So I did.

Almost in the blink of an eye he came through the seat belt, through the open window—head first—and onto the pavement where I promptly handcuffed him—with him screaming all the way. We didn’t have Tasers in those days, but I’m thinking this guy would have chosen a Taser blast over my gentle but persuasive method of vehicle extraction. Anyway, that’s the next step after the “foot in the a**” statement. And I’m guessing Cooper was one short step away from that little action.

By the way, did you notice that Cooper touched the trunk lid as he approached the car? He was checking to be sure the lid was closed so there’d be no dangerous surprises, such as armed gunmen popping out of the trunk to ambush the officers. Yes, this has happened in the past.

Of course the rude driver’s mother pulls up and handles the situation as any mom would. She got in her grown son’s face and politely told him, “It’s gonna take Jesus and two more white folks to keep me kicking your a**. You might not believe this, but moments like that do occur, and yes, sometimes cops have to physically pull mama away to prevent her from delivering on her promise.

Back to Ben and Sammy. The two are in pursuit, in an alleyway, of two guys shooting it out. One is hit and falls. Ben continues after the last man standing who runs into a school yard and then into the school building. Officers (backup had arrived) remove the children one-by-one as they follow a blood trail into a restroom where a very bloody shooting victim succumbs to his wounds.

I must say that the crime scenes on this show are superb. The realism is at a 10 on a scale of 1-10. For example, in another foot chase, Ben chases a guy who runs out into a street where he’s promptly smacked by a passing box-type delivery truck. The accident scene, although gory, is spot on. These folks took the time to make this scene look as it would in real life. In fact, the effort was extremely realistic, and I’m saying this as someone who’s been on the scene of many, many accidents and crashes.

The cops on the scene, at Ben’s urging, reluctantly attempt to treat the runner/accident victim, which was probably wise, especially since the onlooking crowd was growing upset that they weren’t doing anything to save the dying man. Even though the man had died it was a smart move to take the body away in an ambulance with lights and siren going. Doing so kept the crowd at bay, thinking there was hope. Had they known the man had died, well, there just might have been more bloodshed—the officers’.

And, speaking of the behind the scenes stuff that helps make this show what it is—top quality—is the directing and camera work. The camera is almost like it’s own character. These folks take us with them every step of the way. We are not outsiders looking in. And that’s what takes your breath away and makes your heart pound at the inside of your chest, almost as if it wants to get out and away before something bad happens to the body surrounding it.

Next we find ourselves at the police department when a man walks in with a shotgun and begins picking off officers like targets at a carnival shooting gallery. Ben, Ferguson, and Sammy all begin to exchange rounds with the guy. The scene is extremely intense—hold-your-breath-till-it’s-over intense. And it seems real. Totally real.

Unless you’ve been in a shootout you’ll have to take my word for this one. But here’s what you should do…Turn up your surround sound and replay the scene. Do it two or three times, taking care to watch the faces and actions of the people involved. And pay particular attention to the sounds and to the workings of the weapons, the way the slides move and the rounds eject. THEN, rewind and play it again, this time viewing the scene in slow motion, frame by frame. I promise you, that’s the way a real shootout would seem to you, in slow motion, frame by frame. Sounds muted or dull, with the faces of everyone ingrained in memory.

Yes, this show is the real deal, folks, from the tiniest detail to the hot action scenes. It’s the next best thing to putting on a uniform and hitting the streets in a patrol car. It is intense and the actors take the time to make it so.

So how’s your Wednesday going so far?

*     *     *

By the way, I believe the precinct scene may have been based on an actual shooting that took place in a Detroit police precinct.