Southland: Graduation Day

“All cops know, and Officer Ben Sherman is beginning to understand that sometimes you can’t think about it, you just gotta make that leap.”

Well, after a season packed with gut-wrenching scenes, nerves plucked like banjo strings, and a cast that knows how to bring real police work into our living rooms each and every week, it’s over. Southland’s season ended with a handful of cliffhangers and a bag full of unanswered questions.

Last night’s episode, Graduation Day, brought an end to Ben Sherman’s field training. And what an action-packed last day it was. But first things first.

The show opened with Cooper lying in bed facing yet another day of pain and pills. And anyone who’s ever experienced the agony of a herniated disk and pinched nerves (me for one – surgery three years ago) knows exactly what Cooper is going through. But combine all that pain and suffering with a cop’s job, well, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. There’s no way to defend yourself, or anyone else, either. A cop in that situation is nearly helpless, and he’s a danger to everyone (especially other officers) around him. But John rolls out of bed to begin the day…after eating a wad of painkillers.

– Lydia, on the other hand, is in bed, but she’s not rolling out of it. At least not for the moment. In her opening scene she’s giving Mama a little taste of what she’s been dishing out…having to listen to Lydia’s between-the-sheets action. And that action was with her partner’s 20-something-year-old son. Whew! Sparks would fly later about that match-up, and Josie was the one igniting the fire. Nope. She was not happy. In fact, she called Lydia a cradle-robber.

– It’s graduation day for the boots. The day you finish your field training and are finally able to face the streets alone, without your FTO (field training officer), is one of the happiest days in an officer’s career. And that joy was clearly seen on the rookie’s faces when the announcement was made to the shift that this was indeed their last day of training. The seasoned veterans displayed their own happiness by stuffing the a/c vent on Ben’s side of the car with baby powder. Yep, when John fired up the engine Ben was dusted with the white stuff, like a newborn baby’s bottom. Good scene here. Cops love to play practical jokes, and that’s a side the public rarely sees. Like spraying a toilet seat with pepperspray a few minutes before an unsuspecting officer catches the urge for a little bathroom break. Yep, picture that same officer thirty minutes later after his body temp begins to warm up (sweating a little opens the pores and sends that chemical into high gear). A “hot” seat would be putting it mildly.

– Ben has to deal with a nut in a wheelchair who insists on playing in traffic. Again, these are the sort of calls you don’t see, but happen many times during a shift. It’s not all car chases and shootouts. Sometimes it’s all about crazies and weirdos.

– Ben and John respond to a domestic, where the father (a gang member) has just given his young son a gang tattoo on his tiny chest. He’s also been teaching the kid to hate cops and the kid proves that by pointing a finger at Cooper, pretending to shoot him, twice. Cooper responds by affectionately rubbing the kid’s head and walking away. Cooper knows the kid doesn’t stand much of a chance in the world, but also knows the fight to save him is nearly a lost cause. I’ve seen this sort of thing many times over the years, parents teaching their kids to hate cops. In fact, when I used to drive through some neighborhoods, the children—little kids—yelled, “Five Oh,” and then ran away to hide. That’s not something they picked up on their own.

– Dewey and Chickie are together again. Chickie’s moving on to another assignment, and tells Dewey so. Dewey, not really caring about Chickie’s decision, spends his shift attempting to save a prostitute from herself. She’s a self-destructing crackhead who’s quickly heading for the bottom of the pit. Many people think that cops simply react to crimes in progress, but that’s a long ways from being accurate. Believe it or not, cops do care for people, and sometimes they try to save them from the perils of life, one crackhead at a time. It doesn’t always work, but they try. And those who do try, often use their own life experiences as tools to help others who are in trouble, like Dewey and his substance abuse troubles. So good stuff here.

– Ben and John engage in a vehicle pursuit. John’s driving, so Ben assumes control of the radio (did you notice he buckled up as soon as the pursuit began?), constantly providing their location. He also watched for traffic and other hazards, announcing, “Clear left,” or, “Clear right,” as they approached intersections. This let Cooper know it was okay to proceed.

– Same thing when the van crashed. Ben yelled, “Passenger side clear,” meaning that no one was there. Excellent procedure.

– Cooper’s driving along the streets when a man gestures toward him with an extended middle finger. Cooper mumbles to himself, “Ah, the warm embrace of the grateful populace we serve.” That’s sort of the feeling cops get after a dealing with people, day after day, who hit them, spit on them, and bite, scratch, and kick them. Oh, and give them the finger for no reason at all other than the fact that they’re cops. BUT, when someone breaks into those same people’s homes and steals their TV or their prized family heirlooms, suddenly the cops become heroes.

– A radio call…”Shots fired. Officer down.” Everyone who’s available heads that way to assist. And that’s how it is in real life, too. When a fellow officer is injured the brethren respond to help their own.

And guess who shot the officer? Yep, it was Leprechaun, the guy who Sammy thinks killed Nate. Well, the little tatted-up gang member points a gun at the entourage of cops who cornered him and quickly finds himself on the receiving end of a huge dose of “lead poisoning.” And Sammy makes sure the last thing the cop-killer hears before dying is Nate’s name. How fitting it was for Sammy’s face to be the last thing Leprechaun saw before closing his eyes for the final time. But, was he really the guy who killed Nate? Hmm…

– Sammy’s baby entered the world last night. Tammy gave birth to a boy and Sammy was there to hold him shortly after he cried for the first time. Naming the child Nathaniel was a nice tribute to his former partner. But what role will Sammy be allowed to play in his child’s life? Will Tammy let him see the baby as often as he wants? And, Sammy’s going back in uniform to teach rookies how to stay safe. Both of these events are life-changing. Are Sammy’s emotions stable enough to handle it? Another hmm…

Ben and John encounter the kidnapper (the guy in the earlier pursuit) and he runs. Of course, Ben chases on foot while Cooper follows in the patrol car. Now, Cooper didn’t do that simply because of his bad back. No. If, and when, the guy is caught they’ll need the car on the scene. You don’t want to be in the position of dragging a fighting man twenty blocks back to your vehicle. Besides, rookies always do the running! Been there, done that…both the running and, in later years, the driving.

Well, the pursuit is tough. Through alleys, over a fence, up a fire escape, across rooftops, a HUGE jump from one building to another, and finally the struggle where Ben winds up fighting for his life. By the way, Ben McKenzie actually made that jump. There was no stunt double. However, he did wear a wire. Still…

Cooper, bless his heart (a universal southern expression for…that kid is really ugly, or you really didn’t do such a hot job with…) tried to follow Ben, knowing he needed to back up his partner. But his bad back got him there after the fight was over. And the fight, well, it was pretty doggone realistic. And why not? Ben was fighting with a real-life mixed martial arts dude who played the role of bad guy for this episode.

Ben’s struggle with the suspect was great. He had to switch from trying to arrest the guy to fighting for survival. Finally, the suspect decided it was time to make his escape and again attempted to jump from one building to another, but didn’t make it the second time. And the fall was simply fantastic. The guy’s legs pumped and wriggled as if he were trying to run away from what was waiting for him at the bottom. A really good scene. Great job, Ben.

I have to say again just how great the camera work and directing are in this show. The camera really seems like another character. This stuff is so good.

Okay, I know war stories get old, but Ben’s fight scene reminded me of the time when I worked for the sheriff’s office and answered a domestic call way out in the far corner of the county. It was just after shift change and I was working the graveyard shift, alone. I knocked on the door and an obviously battered and bruised woman answered the door. She said her husband had left and that she was alone. Well, I didn’t believe her and asked her to step outside. Suddenly her husband, a man approximately 6’6″ and 320lbs stepped from behind the door and pushed her to the floor, and then lunged at me. Needless to say, it was on!

The two us rolled around inside that house, fighting, until there was absolutely not one single piece of furniture left standing. We even knocked down pictures from the walls. Soon, the man clutched my throat with both hands and began choking me. The only weapon I managed to find was my flashlight, so I began hitting the behemoth on his head with all my might. Well, the flashlight broke and batteries flew everywhere. And, of course, without the weight of the batteries, the flashlight was nearly useless as a weapon.

Suddenly, the man released his grip and fell to the floor. And, miraculously, I saw a flash of a brown uniform fall on top of him. The cavalry had arrived! One of the deputies who had worked the previous shift heard me when I signed off on the call and decided to head my way in case things didn’t go so well. And thank goodness he did. The two of us managed to get the guy cuffed and seated in the police car. We did, however, have to stop by the hospital on the way to the jail so the doctor could stitch up a few nasty cuts on the suspect’s head. I guess my flashlight had found its mark a few times after all.

– Finally there was the emotional scene where Ben confronted Cooper about his drug problem. In fact, he used his big toe to draw a line in the sand, saying, “You’ve got two options. Either I drive you to rehab or I go to the watch commander and tell him to give you a piss test.”

The season ended with Ben driving his mentor to rehab, where Cooper steps out of the car and then turns back to face Ben, and says, “Hey, Boot. Thank you.”

John Cooper then sucks it up and goes inside and confesses to the nurse that he is indeed a drug addict. But he makes it clear that he is also a cop.

*There has been no announcement of a season four for Soutland. We can only hope that TNT sees fit to bring back the most realistic cop show that’s ever been on television. I know I hope to see another season. After all, what else is there for me to review? American Idol??

Also, I’d like to thank Michael Cudlitz (Cooper), C. Thomas Howell (Dewey), and Shawn Hatosy (Sammy) for allowing me to join them on the live chats with their fans. It was fun answering fan questions regarding the accuracy of the police procedure on the show. Of course, it was an easy task since the show is incredibly accurate.

Hey, guys…How about a walk-on part for me next year? I know the way to L.A.!


Southland: Failure Drill

“To protect and serve, that’s the LAPD’s motto. But as most cops’ll tell you, sometimes you’re lucky if you can just survive.”

You know, having lived the life of a police officer I’m always looking at the details in “cop” shows. But I’m especially interested because I’m a writer, and because so many other writers turn to me for answers to their police and forensic questions. Well, I’ve put Southland under the microscope for the past two seasons and what I’ve found is a very wellwritten, well-researched show with a cast that’s truly devoted to “getting it right.”

But there’s another aspect of this show that sets it apart from any other TV show, ever. And that’s the actor’s devotion to their fans. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more approachable and generous group of people. They take time out of their busy schedules to respond to questions on the various social networking sites, and they even participate in live chats with fans. I was even invited to join Shawn Hatosy and C. Thomas Howell in answering fan questions on a Southland chat last week. And Michael Cudlitz is a supporter of the Writers’ Police Academy. They’re simply good folks who crank out excellent episodes each and every week.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get on with the review…

Failure Drill – Two shots (double tap) to the chest, and then one round to the head.

Addiction is tough. Living as an addict who wears a badge and carries a gun is pure hell. An actor who has the job of portraying a cop who’s dealing with his addiction, without help and support, has an extremely tough job. Well, that’s what Michael Cudlitz has to look forward to each and every week. And he does it quite well.

Cooper has tried to kick his addiction to pain pills, but his bad back along with the demons in head inside won’t let him. This week he turned to a dealer again to re-up his supply of his much-needed opiates. But he takes far too many and the effect is not very flattering. Actually, the near overdose level of medication in his system clouded his judgment and could have placed his co-workers, especially Ben, in danger. That is, if Cooper could stay awake long enough to do something even more stupid than working the streets with an ailing back while under the influence of narcotics.

Ben plays a good role as a rookie who’s torn between trying to do a good job, being a good cop, and serving as babysitter to a whacked-out training officer. Ben gets emotional when he sees Cooper avoiding his duties to favor his back. He’s also upset at the fact his FTO is zonked out of his mind while on duty, which forces Ben to shoulder a ton of responsibility.

– Ben and Cooper respond to a burglary call. Ben interviews the witness who promptly says the crook broke in and stole her uterus.  Seem silly? Not to every single cop out there. Right guys? I couldn’t begin to tell you how many of those calls are answered each and every day. I’ve responded to many similar complaints, such as “Elvis broke in and is living in my refrigerator behind the milk,” “A UFO stole my cows,” “Archie Bunker is God and he talks to me through my TV, and “I’m secretly married to Hillary Clinton, but she’s mad at me right now. Could you please make her come home? She’s not answering my calls.” Anyway, this was a great scene. A real taste of what patrol officers deal with on a daily basis.

– Ben leads a community meeting on car seat use and safety. He’s never done it before, but with Cooper in La-La land he has no choice. Another good scene. Cops are asked to speak to groups like this all the time.

– Lydia and Josie catch a call where a husband killed his wife and their son witnesses the crime. The boy defends his father, fearing that he and his siblings will be separated if the father is arrested. So, the two detectives spend quite a bit of time trying to help the kids, and trying to get the father to own up to the murder. Happens all the time, and it’s sometimes quite heartbreaking to have to turn kids over to social workers. That’s why many cops do everything they can possibly do to help the kids before resorting to that step. By the way, these two actors were outstanding this week.

– During the interview at the police station, the killer (the husband) asks for an attorney, So  Lydia and Josie stop the questioning and walk out of the interview room. That’s how it works. Once someone asks for a lawyer the questioning must cease.

– Cooper’s drugs were doing a lot of his talking last night, but the scene where he broke a window in the elderly man’s car to make him stop driving away, well, that’s how it’s done when lives are in danger, or when a criminal suspect refuses to get out of a car. Some cops (EMS workers, too) carry a centerpunch for breaking car windows. The officer presses the pencil-thin tool against the glass, pushes a button and, CRACK, the glass shatters. Much easier than swinging a PR-24 (the side-handle baton that Cooper used) 10 or 12 times at the car window before it ever gives way.

– Ben sucks it up and confronts Cooper about his drug problem. Cooper responds with his usual denial, “My back. It’s bad this morning.” Typical addict who has about one flush left before he swirls out of sight at the bottom of the bowl.

And now for the stuff that the edge of your seats are made for…the for real, shots-fired call.

Lydia and Josie find themselves in the middle of a commercial building with a crazed man armed with a a fully automatic weapon. To make matter worse the building is full of scared, running, screaming civilians. And the gunman has already shot and killed a few people. People flood the exits, running for their lives.

But Lydia and Josie thread their way through the mob and enter the building, heading straight into the gunfire. And that, my friends, is what separates cops from the average person. They head straight into danger, without fear.

The two detectives systematically begin searching the building while trying to help the civilians to safety. The gunman fires several rounds in the direction of the officers who immediately return fire. Josie catches a face full of glass shrapnel and has to retreat. But Lydia goes back inside to take care of business. And now’s the time to mention the brilliant directing and killer camera work that makes this show what it is. This scene was good in many ways, but was truly brilliant in one. Perhaps only the people in this world who’ve ever been involved in a shooting would have noticed the sudden calm, quiet, and slowing of time that happened when Lydia saw the gunman approaching.

And when she shot the man with the double tap to the chest I almost found myself telling her, “To the head. Shoot him in the head. He’s wearing a vest.” I knew what was going to happen, but I was that caught up in the scene. I think I was even holding my breath for a moment.

*By the way, this scenario should have been very familiar to those of you who participated in the FATS training at the 2010 Writers’ Police Academy!

I’ve been in a similar situation, so I knew what the characters were supposed to be showing as emotion, and they did, especially Lydia. Great, great job, guys. This goes for the rest of the cast, too. Including poor Sammy who had to suck it up and ask Tammy’s boyfriend for help unloading a swing set for the future Little Sammy. That was a huge step for anyone, and Shawn Hatosy, as usual, used his facial expressions to deliver a few unwritten lines of dialog.

I can’t wait for next week, but I also hate to see Tuesday night arrive since it’s the season-ender. If you love the show please let the powers-to-be at TNT know. Also, there’s a fan chat session Thursday night at 9pm (EST) at You never know which of the stars may show up. See you there.



Southland: Fixing A Hole

“Sometimes cops find a case can dig them into a hole. Before sunrise Detective Sammy Bryant will discover just how hard it can be to dig yourself out.”

This week’s episode was all about pain—intense physical and emotional pain. And if I didn’t know better I’d think that each of the actors had been through this stuff before. They seem to really understand what it’s like to be behind the badge, facing the world and all the ugly and dirt that life tosses at them. Because what you saw in this episode is what it’s really like out there. And sometimes that’s just a little more than the average human should have to endure.

Sammy’s struggling inside. His nerves are being plucked, like over-taut banjo strings, by a herd of demons that moved into his mind when his partner, Nate, was killed. Those same demons have taken control of Sammy’s reasoning skills, forcing him to act on human emotion instead of a cop’s training and experience. Of course, Sammy’s thought processes have been further taxed by his wife’s affair, which resulted in him having to move out of his family home. And, the wife’s boyfriend moving in with her didn’t help Sammy’s level of anxiety.

Having failed to identify Nate’s killer in a lineup was the icing on Sammy’s teetering emotion cake. Now he’s a speeding locomotive heading straight for rock wall. Sammy fears Nate’s killer is going to walk, so he’s determined to avenge his partner’s death in his own way. Even if it means killing the guy. And he came SO close doing just that last night when he kidnapped a man he thinks killed Nate (I have my doubts that this was the right guy), had him dig his own grave, and then Sammy tried his best to pull the trigger, but couldn’t. So he left, thankfully. Still, by doing this he dug his own hole even deeper. Will the gang come looking for Sammy after they find out what he did to one of their members? And, Sammy just committed a felony—kidnapping.

Shawn Hatosy played an outstanding role this week. His character has been sinking deeper and deeper into what seems like a bottomless pit of swirling emotions, and Hatosy always delivers an outstanding, spot on performance reflective of each scenario. Sure, that’s what actors are supposed to do, but sometimes it’s a bit tougher than normal when you’re playing the part of a cop (cops tend to keep their emotions hidden so it’s difficult to read them). But that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Hatosy, Cudlitz, McKenzie, King and the rest of the crew. Sometimes, I think they’re all reincarnated cops.

Cooper is feeling the physical pain that comes with a really bad back. He’s also dealing with drug addiction to his pain medication, and Michael Cudlitz does an extremely nice job of bringing that addiction to the screen. Anyone who’s had a problem—a real problem—with any of “codones” will tell you what an intense hold they have over them. Sure, what starts out as pain relief can quickly get out of control, and pretty soon the pills are telling you when to take them and how many to take. The body craves those little white pills like a fish craves water. The feeling is so intense that addicts often find themselves counting the tablets, calculating how long they have before they’ll need more. So, for John Cooper to toss his pills into a toilet bowl, well, that took an incredible amount of willpower. And Cudlitz does a wonderful job of showing what it’s like to lead the double life—a drug addict crawling on the floor of a public restroom who walks out moments later as a top police officer.

Cudlitz also accurately portrays the emotional roller coaster associated with drug withdrawl, such as mood swings, irritability, profuse sweating, and lack of concentration. However, he showed just how tough he is when he remained intensely focused on helping a child in need, for hours and hours. Again, this is what cops do. Even when they are going through some tough times of their own, they put the lives of others first. So great job, Mr. Cudlitz. I knew when we spoke last that you’re extremely dedicated to your craft, and it shows.

– Cooper and Ben are transporting a prisoner who gets a little mouthy, and even asks John if he’s high (Actually, it was the opposite. John was going through withdrawl). So, John pulls what some of the old-timers call, “The dog in the road trick.” You have an unruly prisoner in the back of the car, or van, who simply won’t obey any of your orders. Remember, the slimeball’s hands are cuffed behind his back so he has no way to catch himself should he suddenly be propelled forward. So, the driver slams on brakes sending the prisoner flying forward, slamming his face into the wire cage, or Plexiglass screen. Then the officer says, “Sorry, a dog ran in front of the car.” Ben had his first lesson from the unwritten cop book called, Getting Even With Bad Guys: How To Deliver Subtle Hits, Jabs, and Bruises.

– Chickie tells Ben, “You’ve got to be able to trust the person who’s got your back.” Diving head first into a pool of angry, armed 6-6″ musclebound bad guys is bad enough. Doing so while wondering if your partner is behind you is an awful feeling. A cop absolutely must be able to rely on his co-workers. So, great line, Chickie.

– Dewey asks John, “Why don’t you lay off that s**t. You don’t look so good. You should come with me to a meeting.”

So Cooper’s co-workers are noticing his drug addiction and that it’s affecting his job and his life. This is the point where you have to reach up to touch the bottom. Addiction to prescription medication is an addiction that’s no different than an addiction to heroin.

Again, the entire crew of Southland has done a fantastic job of showing a side to cops the public rarely, if ever, sees. Cops are human with real human problems. And they have to shoulder their troubles while dealing with ours.

This a wonderful show with actors who really take their jobs seriously.

*Maybe someone from the show will consider showing up at this year’s Writers’ Police Academy. You never know…

Southland: Sideways

“Even when cops do everything right they can still go sideways. Learning to accept this is a big part of the job.”

There’s lots to talk about this week, and a great deal of the show was devoted to a side of police officers civilians rarely see—the heart.

Take away the gun, the badge, and the uniform, and what you have is an honest to goodness person. And, yes, believe it or not, cops are actually people who bleed, cry, grieve, and laugh just like everyone else. And they hurt when someone else is hurting.

Still, there is a difference. And that difference becomes apparent the moment danger appears. That’s when cops run straight into harm’s way to protect you and me. Who knows why they do it? They’re just wired a little differently than the average Joe and Jane. But, as heroic as they are, and try as they may, they’re going to screw up. They’re human.

And there’s another difference between cops and civilians…when cops screw up it can be big. Really big. And that’s where we begin tonight’s episode, with Chickie and Dewey trying to do right, but…

A man with a knife who runs from the police is one that cops sort of hate to catch because they know what’s waiting for them when they do—the potential to bleed…a lot. Yet, the chase goes on, every time. And that’s what Chickie did last night. But her suspect climbed into a car that started a high-speed pursuit involving several of LAPD’s finest. Pursuit driving is tough. Very tough. Not only does the officer have to maintain control of the vehicle, he/she must maintain visual contact with the suspect, watch out for drivers who cannot hear the approaching sirens, be alert for road hazards, listen to the radio traffic, provide constant communication via radio, and look out for pedestrians…

Dewey’s driving. Chickie’s riding shotgun and is working as the second pair of eyes, constantly vigilant for anything that might happen, including calling off the pursuit if it became too dangerous for her and her partner and for the civilians in the area. She’s also in charge of the radio. Then…BAM! A lady steps out in front of the patrol car and Dewey slams into her while traveling at a pretty high rate of speed. She dies. And here’s where these two cops start learning how to deal with things going sideways.

– Did you happen to notice that neither Dewey nor Chickie wore seat belts during the chase? Quite often, cops simply have to run, jump in the car, slam the shift into drive and go, like a bat out of hell. Seat belts? No time to yank ’em on.

John and Ben spend the majority of the episode attempting to come through on a promise they made to remove a rolling crack house from a neighborhood. However, the order to have it removed has been tied up in a never-ending stream of bureaucratic paperwork—the norm in police work. But John’s been making a real effort to help the community and deliver what he promised. Still, the locals have lost their patience and begin to voice their displeasure, quite loudly.

John tells Ben, “You know what sucks, is that we got the gun and the big stick and they think we have all the power. And then when they realize we don’t they get all mouthy with us. That’s what sucks.”

Great statement. Lots of people think police officers can simply wave a magic wand and make their troubles disappear. It doesn’t happen like that. Not at all.

– Cooper and sidekick, Ben, stop to break up a fight, which eventually leads to the arrest of the two guys. Well, the second the cuffs come out one of the men begins spouting off all the things the other guy has done wrong in his life, such as supplying guns to kids. This, too, was very realistic. People, for some reason, do this all the time, as if telling on the other guy will somehow help them out of their own troubles. Nope. well, not at that time. Maybe later.

– Lydia and Josie respond to a parking lot shooting where the victim was caught in the crossfire between two men who were shooting at each other. He died at the scene. A second victim was on the receiving end of a bullet in the brain. He was able to talk to Lydia and describe the shooters. However, once in the hospital, tests revealed the man had just mere hours to live. Lydia stayed with the man, holding his hand and talking to him, comforting him, and she tried to make his last moments as pleasant as possible.

Well, you know, cops do this sort of thing all the time. You don’t read about it in the papers, though. No, what you see there are the bad things that happen…the sideways moments. Well, these moments of good occur far more often than the bad times. Good job, Lydia.

– Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. you’re coming unglued, Buddy. You need to take a deep breath, stop, and think about your next move. I believe we all know which path your traveling on, and I’ll say this…you should take a detour right now. Sure, he identified the wrong guy in the lineup. He knew it wasn’t the right guy, but he’s so darn desperate to avenge Nate’s death that he’s grasping at anything. Sammy, take a break. Don’t go back to the scene. And do not take this into your own hands. It happens in real life all too often, and the outcome is always the same…BAD. Remember, everyone saw you watching the slimeball talking to his attorney after the lineup.

And going back to Tammy??? Sammy…find someone in your own species.

– Ben, Dewey, Coop, Chickie, and a few others are having lunch together, and while eating they’re sharing blood-and-guts war stories. This is typical for cops. They become numb to that sort of thing after a while. You almost have to to deal with the carnage you see on an almost daily basis.

– Lydia asks Russell to represent her in the hearing regarding the leaked photos of last week’s celebrity murder scene. This is one of the few times that Southland writers hung a flashing red “I DID IT” arrow over a character, or scene. It was obvious from the beginning that Russell took the photos and sold them to the tabloid. And he hung his former partner and friend, Lydia, out to dry for $500,000. As a result, he lost his job and his friend. Money does strange things to some cops. A few have been known to steal from seized drug money and other funds. I think the word “sideways” fits nicely here, too.

– Cooper, upon seeing the mobile crack house still firmly planted where it wasn’t supposed to be, decides to take matters into his own hands. He and Ben enlist the help of a few bystanders and pull the thing out into the street where it instantly becomes a traffic hazard. Now, John no longer needs any paperwork to have it removed. So he calls for a tow truck. Problem solved. And I’ve seen things like this happen time after time after time.

– Lydia says, “Cops are good storytellers.” So true. A good investigator absolutely MUST be able to spin a good, believable tale. After all, it’s hard to BS a BS’er.

Back to Dewey and Chickie. It’s going to be interesting to see how they cope with the death of the woman they hit during the pursuit. Chickie is already having problems (bad CPR technique, by the way) with the situation. She says she should have been a surfer instead of a cop. Cooper steps forward to say, “How many surfers run toward gunfire? Teachers? Bartenders? If not you, who?”

Yep, it takes a special person to run into a firefight. It also takes some pretty darn good acting and writing to get this stuff right time and time again. But these guys come through every week. Every single week.

Southland: Cop Or Not

“The celebrity culture makes police work in Los Angeles different from anywhere else in the country. But ask detective Lydia Adams about it and she’ll tell you celebrity’s a bitch.”

Before I get into the review I’d like to to take a moment to introduce you to the man behind the curtain for this week’s episode. Cheo Hadari Coker (pictured above) is the wizard of Cop Or Not. He’s the writer and co-producer who has somehow found a way to take what are normally the private thoughts that drift around inside a cop’s head and put them first to page and then to the screen. He, along with the other writers of this incredible show, have really done a wonderful job of portraying police work accurately. In fact, for several weeks I’ve noticed (my wife, too) an uncanny parallel with some of the events in the episodes to certain events in my eclectic police career. But that’s a story for another day. For now, let’s congratulate Mr. Coker for a job very well done, as always, and step into his excellent tale of celebrity, murder, and those twisting, writhing daymares that pass through a cop’s mind from time to time.

The show opened with Lydia lying in bed listening to things (her mother’s bed springs squeaking) that she’d rather not hear. And it’s obvious that she’d prefer to remain in bed rather than getting up and going to work. But duty and a couple of dead bodies call. Also stirring from slumber, among other things, are John Cooper and Sammy. Ben, however, has been up for a while and is already pounding out a few miles on a treadmill. Without saying a single word these actors gave us a peek at what it’s really like to start the day as a police officer.

The older, more-seasoned officers are tired, beaten and bruised, and worn out after many years of odd hours and shift work, fighting, worrying about your job (more on that later), worrying—really worrying—about staying alive to work another day, hoping the job doesn’t ruin your personal relationships and family life, and, well, you get the idea. And I feel their pain because I’ve walked in those shoes. But, the rookie who’s still green around all the edges has tons of energy. He’s ready to run…and run…and run.

The crime scene. Great detail as usual. I especially liked that they took the time to show the detectives logging in with the uniformed officer guarding the entrance. That’s how it should be done in real life. Log in and log out. Everyone, including the chief.

– Cooper, a seasoned vet resents having to stand guard at the murder scene. That’s a “same old song” that’s sung by nearly every veteran cop. They simply don’t like doing “unimportant things” like directing traffic and standing guard for hours outside a crime scene while “big shot” detectives waltz in and out drinking coffee and telling jokes. Cooper summed up that very real sentiment with his comment, “We should be out doing real police work.” This was fantastic detail.

– Cooper says, “Crappy job. Something happens to an important person and the mayor’s phone rings. Which direction do you think that s**t storm’s going to roll?” So true. You’d better believe the brass jumps when the mayor calls. And the butt chewing rolls downhill really fast from there.

– Sammy, Sammy, Sammy…You’re a loose cannon, buddy. And your seams are ready to explode. BUT, you’re reacting just as a lot of cops would in the same situation. I’d tell my own story here, but I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say it happens. Anyway, Sammy crawls back into uniform as an excuse to head on over to gangland where he can confront, and get even, with Nate’s killer. Yeah, that could happen. I say that because it has…many times.

Me, two years in plainclothes and putting on the uniform again was like stuffing sausage into a casing. My chest had quickly fallen to my waist, my waist to my butt, and my feet steadfastly refused to ever chase anyone again. It was an eyeopener that sent me to the gym and back running five plus miles every day.

Sammy’s partner for the day is an African American officer who doesn’t appreciate Sammy using him as a tool in his effort to avenge Nate’s death. The partner-for-a-day lets Sammy know that he doesn’t appreciate his cowboy attitude by saying, “I live by the patrolman’s creed—Make it home alive. Whatever it takes.” Certainly, taking on a dangerous gang, alone, is not the way to live up to that creed. And risking your partner’s life so you can take care of a personal vendetta, well, it’s just wrong.

Sammy’s uniformed partner (I apologize, but I cannot, for the life of me, remember his name) also made a really profound statement when he said, “It’s always worse for a brother.” It’s true. A black officer sometimes catches hell from other African Americans. Especially those who are on the wrong side of the law. During tense times they immediately launch into the Uncle Tom comments, and worse. They also seem to expect a break from the African American officer simply because they’re of the same race. It doesn’t happen like that for white officers. Not at all. It’s tough being a cop, but try wearing a uniform when you’re not white, or female.

– Cooper said, “You stand where they tell you to stand, for however long they tell you.” He was venting his frustration at having to stand guard at the celebrity suspect’s empty home. But his comment was spot on. Patrol cops sometimes feel as if they’re on the bottom of the totem pole (not so, but the feeling is still there at times), and feel as if the administration treats them so.

– “Domestics often turn to murder.” Cooper couldn’t have made a more accurate statement. Unfortunately it’s true.

Lydia gets caught up in an IAD investigation regarding crime scene photos that had been leaked to the press. Of course, you and I both know that Lydia is as straight as they come and would never have let those photos get out of her control. She’s a seasoned investigator who lives by the rules, and her instincts. However, the scene was a perfect example of what many cops fear most about their jobs, and Lydia summed it up nicely by saying, “After you get over the fact that you can get killed there’s only two things worry about on the job. You worry you’re not going to be there for your partner if something happens to them, and the department’s going to hang you out to dry because something doesn’t fall the way they like.

– Cooper and Ben leave their post to respond to a call. A definite no-no in the cop business. But, sometimes you just do what you gotta do if you feel strongly that it’s right. We’ve all been there and we faced the consequences later. In this case, John and Ben rescue a child who’d been surviving for three days off what he could find in the refrigerator while living in a house with a dead relative. This stuff happens in real life. The public doesn’t see this side of police work, the gut wrenching, emotional stuff that tears you apart, slowly but surely.

Sure, John’s supervisor rakes him over the coals, lightly, for leaving the post, and then orders them back to the house. But you could hear the “I understand. I’ve been there”— in his voice.

So, we’re back to the murder scene, where the accused celebrity has committed suicide, but not before leaving a note professing his innocence. Cooper and Ben wonder about his guilt, or not. Then they receive a “See the woman,” call. Cooper says, Let’s go do some real police work.” It’s time to forget the celebrity and everything about the case, and move on.

A patrol officer doesn’t have time to dwell on any one case, or person. If they did they’d open the door for the many demons that wait for any opening they can find to climb inside a cop’s head. Besides, there are far too many cases. Far too many victims. But, that doesn’t stop officers from caring. They all do. No matter what. No matter the risk. It’s just what they do…

*     *     *

Writers’ Police Academy

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is now open. You do not want to miss this one of a kind event!

Writers’ Police Academy

Guilford Technical Community College and Public Safety Training Academy

Jamestown, N.C.

September 23-25, 2011

*     *     *

We’ve just added some new workshops and experts to the lineup!

Cold Case Investigations

Bloodstain Pattern Investigations

3D Laser Scanning

(experts show you how it’s done in the field using actual equipment)

How about tours of the local jail?

Ride-a-longs with sheriff’s deputies?

Have we got some surprises in store for you!

Southland: The Winds

“Southland cops know when the Santa Ana winds blow you learn just how close you are to the edge.”

All cops have that certain something that sets them off. A nemesis. The thing that causes them to look over their shoulder, watching and waiting for the boogie man. A gut feeling? Perhaps.

Mine was a full moon. The glowing, round ball in the night sky that brings all the crazies out to play. And, like “the winds to Southland cops,” a full moon never failed to take me close to the edge. Well, actually, the edge never waited for me to come to it. Instead, the edge came to me…at full throttle. And there was no getting away from it. Ever.

This episode of Southland was all about the things that live inside a cop’s mind. The things that claw and scratch at the inside of his skull, trying to find a way out. Any way out. Needing to get out before it’s too late.

Sometimes the “things” make it out and all is well. But sometimes the incessant gnawing never stops. Not until the faint chanter and drone of bagpipes is heard approaching from somewhere far in the distance. The sound that lets you know you’ve finally gone over the edge.

Cooper’s troubles are just that…trouble. Living with chronic back pain is pure misery. Working with chronic back pain, especially as a veteran cop who’s addicted to pain medication, is even worse. And that combination is like the ultimate sin for a police officer. How can you arrest people for doing the same things you do every day? And, how can you teach a rookie officer to be a good cop when you yourself are an addict? Cooper knows, as we saw in this episode, that the only difference between him and the guy in the back alley shoving a needle in his arm, is the uniform.

I wanted to stand up and applaud Michael Cudlitz a few times during this show for his portrayal of the human side of a police officer. Not many people have the opportunity to see the emotional aspect of a police officer’s life. It’s not all handcuffs, patrol cars, and non-stop action. Somewhere in between, a cop has a life.

– Lydia and Josie are back at it again, in a pissing contest over who’s handling a rape victim the right way.

Be tough. Lie to the victim just to get her testify? That’s Josie’s M.O. Lydia thinks they should build a case on other evidence and not rely on the victim’s shaky statements and testimony.

Lydia said (to Josie), “Lying to a suspect is one thing, but doing the same thing to get a victim to testify is wicked.” I agree.

First of all, the questions they asked the rape victim were good questions—Did the attacker speak? Any accent? Clothing? Etc.? Having the victim identify her attacker using a six-pack line up was also great detail.

And the differences in the investigation styles of both detectives was a nice touch (I still think the Josie character is bad for the show and bad for the Lydia character). Josie clearly had a malignant case of tunnel-vision, which happens sometimes. Lydia, on the other hand, wanted to build a case from the ground up, seeing the case in a panoramic view.

The rape victim had that “something’s not quite right” vibe to her from the very beginning. I told my wife early on that the woman was lying about the rape to cover for an affair. Why did I come to this conclusion so early? Simple. I’ve seen this very scenario in real life several times over the years. Yes, it happens.

Sure enough, this selfish woman had risked an innocent man’s life and family to cover up her affair with a tennis pro. Needless to say, I was pleased to see her arrested for filing a false police report.

Cooper arrests the driver of a van for operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. The guy readily admitted to taking prescribed medication for a knee problem. He was taking the medication to help alleviate pain while he was waiting for knee replacement surgery. Legal medication, taken as prescribed. Ben clearly didn’t agree with John’s decision. After all, John is taking the same medication for severe pain. To make matters worse, John drives a police car while he’s under the influence of the medication.

One point…prior to stopping the van for DUI, Ben asks dispatch for wants and warrants on the vehicle. Officers routinely do this when making a traffic stop. That’s much-needed information—if the driver is wanted, or if the vehicle is stolen—that could very well save an officer’s life. Wanted people are dangerous. So are people who drive stolen cars.

When approaching the van, John checked the rear door to see if it was closed. An open door could indicate an ambush situation. Great detail. Also, John was constantly watching the rear compartment of the van. Any movement back there could be cause for alarm. Not being able to see inside a vehicle during a traffic stop is a scary situation, especially at night.

Ben obviously fears that John is going to steal some of the pain meds they confiscated from the DUI driver. John realizes it and dives on Ben with both feet, mentioning his 19-years of stellar service by saying, “You try wearing a Sam Browne for 19 years.” He also pointed out the correct and complete inventory of the pills. Ironically, my post yesterday was about “the Sam Browne.”

And then there’s the kid.

His parents moved out while he was away, leaving him all alone to fend for himself. John takes a special interest in the boy, sensing a few similarities between his life as a kid and the boy’s current situation. This boy didn’t choose the direction his life had taken. He’d been dealt a bad hand and didn’t have a clue as to how it should be played.

Cops are faced with situations like this all the time and it breaks their hearts. It one of the toughest aspects of the job.

Later in the show John plays video games with the boy while waiting for someone from social services to come for him. When they arrive, the kid hugs John and asks him to please adopt him. This was quite realistic. The boy was honest, sincere, and definitely in need of someone to care about him. Again, I’ve been there. Children in these circumstances sometimes see the officer as someone who saved them from disaster. So they cling to their “hero.” Or, the officer is a sort of safety net, since he’s the only person the child knows in a room full of authority-figure strangers. Either way, this is a scenario that must be handled delicately. The child is extremely fragile. In this case, I’m not so sure that John wasn’t just as fragile as the boy. John’s nerves are nearly as tight as banjo strings, and getting tighter.

And then there was this kid, the boy who called 911 because his mother spanked him with a belt. John quickly summed up this kid as spoiled, bratty, and selfish. Totally unlike the other boy who deserved John’s compassion. This one did not.

Finally, John has to face two devils. First, he speaks out at his father’s parole hearing, saying his dad deserved to remain in prison until the day he died. Next, he finds himself at the bottom of his drug addiction barrel, digging spilled pills out of the dirt and hungrily shoving the filthy tablets into his mouth.

The ghouls are clawing hard at the inside of John’s skull. They want out. The question is, will John find a way to release them? Or, will he soon hear the bagpipes?

A cops life is not all shootouts, chases, and fighting. There’s the day-to-day stuff that must be handled. And there’s the stuff that works on your heart and your emotions. That’s work, too.

Again, another great episode that showed a side of cops the public rarely sees. This is truly one of the best cop shows that’s ever been on TV.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is now open. You do not want to miss this one of a kind event!

Writers’ Police Academy

Guilford Technical Community College and Public Safety Training Academy

Jamestown, N.C.

September 23-25, 2011

*     *     *

We’ve just added some new workshops and experts to the lineup!

Cold Case Investigtions

Bloodstain Pattern Investigations

3D Laser Scanning (we’re going to show you how it’s done in the field using actual equipment)

How about tours of the local jail?

Ride-a-longs with the sheriff’s office?

Have we got some surprises in store for you!

Southland: Code Four

“Most of us go to work every day with a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen. As Detective Bryant will be reminded of today, cops never do.”

I was a cop for a long time and I loved the job. In the early days, I, like rookie Ben Sherman, never really considered the consequences of my actions. After all, the job was exciting—a full-time adrenaline rush. Later, I served in the same capacity as Officer John Cooper, as a field training officer. So I’ve worn both sets of boots. I know what it’s like to see the world from each set of eyes. A rookie feels ten-feet-tall and bullet-proof. Invincible. A training officer feels the weight of the world resting on his shoulders. It’s his job to see to it that the rookie, or boot as they’re commonly called, stays safe while learning to do the same for others. It’s a tough life, and I agree, cops never know what’s going to happen. But they’d better be ready for anything. Because it’s coming. And somehow the actors in this series have seen it. They know, and it shows.

Code Four: Additional assistance is not needed, as indicated by the officer holding up four fingers. The signal that all is well.

– Officer John Cooper and rookie Ben Sherman began the show with a normal conversation between trainer and trainee. Much of the shift is spent (in real life) with the training officer quizzing the new officer about rules, regulations and what-if’s. Between questions, the teacher and student respond to calls, where the boot receives on the job, hands-on training. Such was the case in this episode when Ben let his, “she’s a woman, I must be gentle,” assumptions cause a near disaster.

During a domestic dispute a woman grabbed a hot pan off the stove and tossed its contents on her husband/boyfriend. Cooper had told Ben to turn off the stove, knowing what could happen. But Ben had already slipped into his chivalrous mode. When all was said and done, Ben received a proper butt chewing from his supervisor, again. Cooper said, “You gottta be sure of what you see. Really see. You’re gonna get someone killed. You understand?” Lesson #1. This scene took me back to my days as an FTO and the lessons I taught.

– Sammy is still having a difficult time dealing with his separation from Tammy. The two constantly bicker via cellphone, disrupting every single crime scene that he and Nate attempt to work. The troubles even spilled over to a homicide scene where Sammy let his problems stand in the way of common decency. He was so preoccupied that he’d forgotten to cover the body of a murder victim, resulting in the victim’s wife and brother seeing their loved one lying in the street. This was cruel, but realistic. Cops are human and sometimes their personal troubles find a way to affect the job. Doesn’t make it right, but it happens.

– Ben seems bored, and he’s grown tired of hearing Cooper’s constant instruction. So John lets him be top cop for a day, handling the task of telling a mother that her son has been killed in an accident. Thinking he knows it all, Ben delivers the notification to the wrong mother at the wrong house. Lesson #2, and a second butt chewing.

– Cooper spies a driver in front of their patrol car who’s acting a little “guilty.” That’s his “cop’s 6th sense” talking, which is almost always right. So he initiates a traffic stop. His PC for the stop? The guy’s tires “look” a little bald…Hey, it’s worked for many years. So, during the stop Ben cuffs the guy, leaves him standing beside and fence, and joins Cooper in searching the car. He finds a large bag of pot.

Cooper says, “So where’s your suspect?” knowing the guy has taken off running with his hands cuffed behind his back. Ben takes off on foot to catch the guy while Cooper drives. Lesson #3. Never leave a suspect unattended.

As they say, “been there done that.” Yep, and my favorite expression was, “Experience drives; rookies run.”

Cooper also made the comment that Ben never has a hair out of place. Man, I can’t tell you how much that rings true about some of the guys who’re fresh out of the academy. I remember when…Okay, I’ll stop. But this show is darn realistic!

– Before processing the runner, Ben and John are seen placing their weapons inside a box hanging on the wall. These boxes (lock boxes) are placed in areas where weapons are not permitted—jails, prisons, lockups, etc. Officers place their weapons inside, remove the key, and then conduct their business—processing, interviewing, etc. Once the business is complete, officers may then retrieve their firearms. Great detail.

– Sammy refers to identifying someone from a “six pack.” A six pack is a photo lineup where detectives arrange six mugshot-type images in a folder for viewing by a witness. Six packs are often comprised of actual mugshots.

– Lydia confronts a young man/killer at his home. She has no proof, but lets the kid know she’s watching him. Another great detail. Happens all the time, and often helps to cause the little slimeballs to slip up. You never know. By the way, I was really glad to see her without the new partner. She seemed to be back in control. Josie is an unnecessary distraction that may be doing the show more harm than good.

– John and Ben call it quits for the day and, while leaving the PD, Cooper teases Ben one last time about his rookie mistakes. Ben gets a little steamed and says he’s tired of the hazing. Mistake. Cooper dives in with both feet, bringing on a much-needed reality check.

“Cooper said, “You boots are all the same. Nine months in and you start to believe you know what you’re doing. ”

A pause.

He continues. “You think you were most dangerous when you first got out of the academy? No. No, it’s now. Right now is when you are most likely to get me or someone else killed.”

Another pause.

“So get your s**t tight. In ninety days I’m not going to be here to cover your ass. Whoever draws the short straw and ends up riding with you is going to count on you to keep them alive.”

There’s nothing I can add to that dialog. It’s true. That’s the point where rookies think they’ve learned it all, know it all, and have seen it all. But they’ve only scratched the surface. It’s been said that a cop remains a rookie for the first five years on the job.

And now we’ve gone full circle. It’s time for Sammy to find out why cops never know what’s going to happen when they go to work.

– Sammy and Nate spent the entire episode trying to nail a two-bit gangbanger for murdering a man in front of his kids.

Well, like all good cops, the pair is relentless and Sammy finally chases the guy and arrests him. Mission accomplished.

But, the two are confronted by an angry gang who’s members quickly surround them. Nate and Sammy decide to leave, waving off a police helicopter with the four finger “code four” signal that all is well. But Nate is attacked and badly injured.

Sammy tries to fend off the mob and rescue his partner and friend by drawing his weapon and firing shots into the air and at the attackers.

Back up arrives and takes care of the business at hand while a patrol car rushes Nate to the hospital.

A few moments later Sammy hears a scream from Nate’s wife, and that’s a sound that no cop wants to hear. It’s a signal that a fellow officer has died. Nate’s watch had ended.

This was truly an emotional scene—very realistic—one that’s worthy of an award. It also comes at a particularly tough time for cops and their families. In January of 2011, 14 officers have already been killed in the line of duty. In fact, eleven officers have been shot within the past 24 hours. And that’s the real world, not TV.

So my hat’s off to the actors and writers of Southland for portraying such a gut-wrenching tragedy in a very realistic, yet dignified manner. Also, our thoughts and prayers remain with the officers and their families who’ve experienced the real-life horrors that unfortunately remain part of the job.

Great job, guys. Another excellent episode.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is officially open. Register early to reserve your spot. You don’t want to miss this one!

Southland: Discretion

“All cops have to make judgment calls they hope they won’t regret. No cop ever bats 1,000.”

Discretion: a one of a kind, useful implement that’s tucked away inside every cop’s virtual toolbox. It’s a valuable part of police work that every officer uses many times during their career. It can be a deal maker, a deal breaker, the beginning of a never-ending source of valuable information, and a life saver. Discretion, however, was the basis for more head-butting between Lydia and her new partner.

A rental chainsaw coated in blood and tissue caused Lydia’s sixth sense to kick into overdrive. Her thinking was that a dead body couldn’t be too far away from the weekend lumberjack who’d rented it. So, an argument ensues about collecting samples for DNA testing, or not. Lydia says yes, Josie says no, but then gives one of her eye rolls and sarcastically says, “Go ahead. DNA your ass off.”

Detectives normally have free reign to use their discretion to investigate suspicious circumstances. However, Lydia’s new partner, Josie, felt that looking into the source of the blood-like material on the saw was a pure waste of time, and she had no problem letting her feelings be known. And, as usual, her manner of delivering that message was obnoxious, condescending, and irritating…for the duration of the entire show. And to make matters worse she insisted on snooping into Lydia’s private affairs.

I still can’t warm up to this Josie character. I believe the writers are attempting to portray the possible consequences of having two detectives of equal rank working as partners. But that’s a situation that occurs every day in the real world and, sure there’s an occasional clash of ideas and personalities, but not usually to this extent. Surely, not to the point where one begins to cower as Lydia has at times. In fact, Josie has weakened Lydia to the point where she almost seems softer and wimpier, maybe even a bit ineffective as a detective. It’s not very flattering. Still, the detail in this show, including the tensions caused by working with someone you don’t particularly see eye-to-eye with is incredible.

– John and Ben answer a call and Ben immediately, after hopping out of the patrol car, starts talking to his mom on his cell phone. John (remember, he’s still Ben’s field training officer – FTO) gets in Ben’s face about the call. He says, “Unless she’s had a stroke or her uterus is falling out, you’re on my hip.” Good point. A cop must cover his partner at all times. And a rookie-in-training must not waiver from a single rule, including paying full attention to every single thing that’s happening at the time. No distractions.

– John and Ben encounter a man who’s in possession of a crack pipe. Of course, he was on his way to score when Cooper confiscated the pipe, destroyed it (had the user step on it), and then gave the guy a scare-tactic lecture of the gloom and doom that would rain down on his head if John caught him there again. Not arresting the guy was John’s discretion as a police officer. Now he has a possible informant, a guy who’s extremely grateful that he’s not going to jail. And he has Officer Cooper to thank for it. Letting the guy go was really no big deal, especially in places where paraphernalia possession is not illegal.

Sure, there was cocaine residue inside the pipe, and he could’ve been charged with possession of that small amount of the drug, but, as John said, “You want to spend 4 hours booking that guy? It’s called discretion. You gotta know when to use it.” It’s sometimes a better deal to grab an informant. Besides, maybe the speech worked and the guy’ll stop using drugs…yeah, right. But, he may, at least, stay out of Cooper’s way. Good use of discretion. And obviously a point made as a buildup for a later scene.

– Ben spots a parolee who served time for assaulting his (Ben’s) mother. He pretends the man is up to no good and tells a couple of lies to lure John into helping him make a traffic stop on the guy. As soon as the officers step out of the car, Ben crosses in front of John, his FTO, and says, “I’m contact, you’re cover,” meaning that he’d be the one to speak with the driver. Of course, Ben’s real goal was to confront the man and tell him to stay away from his mother, which, of course, is a very unprofessional act. However, it happens. Ben was later raked over the coals by his sergeant for using (abusing) his authority for personal gain (revenge). John also dinged him for lying to him about the incident, which, by the way, placed John in harm’s way.

– The next time John and Ben answer a call (a robbery-in-progress at a restaurant) John takes a quick peek over his shoulder to make sure his trainee is “on his hip.” Good detail. FTO’s constantly watch out for the rookies assigned to them. An FTO’s job is a tough one because they have to protect another officer while handling the actual call.

– Ben finds an illegal firearm in the restaurant. It belongs to the owner who states he needs it for protection. Ben, opting for a little officer’s discretion, allows the man to keep the revolver even though the serial number had been ground away. He thinks he’s doing the right thing by telling the man to buy a legal gun and then turn in the stolen gun once that purchase is made. After all, everyone needs a means to protect themselves, right? Bad move.

– Sammy’s situation with his wife has totally consumed his mind and he’s letting it interfere with his work. It happens. I’ve seen it many times. Unfortunately, a cop’s job often leads to a lot of time spent away from home. As a result, some spouses resort to cheating, as did Sammy’s wife, Tammy. Well, Sammy decides to break into his own home (Tammy changed the locks after he moved out) and a couple of deputies, who somehow magically appeared on the scene, checked him out at gunpoint. I’m not sure, but I doubt that Tammy had gotten any sort of legal papers that would have prevented Sammy from entering the house. If not, there’s no law that says you can’t break into your own home. But, I may have missed that fact.

Sammy’s scenes remind me of a cop I once knew who went through a similar situation. I don’t know where the writers of this show find their ideas, but I know one thing, they’re talking to real cops. And that’s a good thing.

– Ben, while answering a domestic call at a motel, beats the dickens out of a suspect and has to be pulled off the guy by John and two other officers (after a nice Tasering of the suspect by John). Ben beat the guy as a means to vent his frustrations about the parolee situation. Ben’s abuse of power and poor judgment are getting out of hand. Another set of rookie mistakes. And, again, it happens.

And now we’re at the end, where a shots-fired called comes in. And guess where it is…Yep, it’s the same restaurant where Ben allowed the owner to keep the stolen weapon. Guess who fired the shots that struck an innocent person. And guess what he used to shoot the guy.

And guess what...Discretion, when used improperly, can turn around and bite a cop right below where his handcuff case should be resting.

Another great show!

Southland: Punching Water


“Most good cops are passionate cops. Put enough of them together and occasionally their passions explode.”

You know, there’s simply not a better cop show on TV. Action, emotions, compassion, and realism. That’s what Southland brings to the screen each and every week. And the cast and crew absolutely nail the details—so much so, that I feel as if I’ve dusted off the old gun belt and jump boots and hit the streets again.

If you, a civilian, have ever wondered what it’s like to work an eight-hour shift as a police officer you need to look no further than TNT at 10 pm on Tuesday nights. This week’s episode, Punching Water, was that “day in the life,” that began with a murder committed by a killer with an odd nickname, a moniker that led to an interesting “pointing of fingers” by a very reluctant witness.

When the witness (above) told Sammy that “nobody” killed the guy, he was actually referring to a thug/gang member whose street name was Nobody. Street names are important to people who, well, live and work the streets. Many criminals, street people, drug dealers and users, etc. don’t use their given names. Instead, they go by a nickname, which in many instances is the only name anyone knows them by, including the closest of their friends. These street names are often assigned to people due to an association to them and a certain item or event. For example, I once arrested a drug dealer whose street name was Pork Chop. He, of course, had a passion for eating fried pork chops. Pork Chop’s friends included Popcorn, Onion, One Eye, Truck, AK, and Doobie.

– Ben, Ben, Ben…what’s up with the Badge Bunny? Didn’t your police academy instructors warn you about those uniform-chasin’ members of the opposite sex? They’re everywhere, waiting to prey on unsuspecting rookies. Sure, it starts with sex, but where will it end? Following you around while you’re responding to calls? Sitting across the street from your house while you sleep? Phony 911 calls from her residence so she can see you in uniform? Speeding just so you’ll stop her for the infraction? Oh wait, that’s how it all started, right? You should have listened to the warnings. “Red-headed-Sallys” can be bad news. Perhaps you should give her a gentle nudge in the direction of the local fire department…

– During the shift briefing the sergeant tells the crew to stop gang member’s cars for every single infraction, write tickets, and tow their cars if possible. Good scene. That tactic can be just aggravating enough to cause someone to snitch, hoping the police will leave them alone.

– One of the detectives said, “I’ve got a C.I. I can talk to.” He was referring to an informant (confidential informant). Each detective, over time, builds up a network of informants they can turn to for information. Good detail.

– John tells Dewey to “light ’em up,” meaning to initiate a traffic stop by turning on the blue lights (AKA “activating the emergency equipment). During the stop Cooper stood to the side and rear of the suspect’s vehicle while Denny approached with his hand on his weapon. Good officer safety.

– A thug tells one of the officers, “I ain’t no snitch. I’m off the paper,” meaning he was no longer on probation, which meant the officer no longer had that leverage over him.

– The scene where Nobody’s dead body was stretched out on the sidewalk was pretty realistic. Other cop shows should take notice. Even the blood was a fairly realistic color.

– Cooper calls for an RA unit. If I’m not mistaken this is LAPD-speak for rescue ambulance. Every locale has their own terminology for this stuff. In some areas officers simply say, “Send rescue.”

– This episode shows non-stop calls. Officers barely finish answering one before they’re dispatched to another. That’s the way it is, folks—an assembly line of he-said-she-saids, shootings, shoplifters, domestics, and unfounded’s.

– Sammy said, “The whole gang problem is about parenting. Walk into the living room it’s always the same song—Why, why, why did the Lord take my baby?” Sammy turned to look at his partner and continued, “Well, maybe he’s dead because you’re a crackhead and don’t know who the father is, and maybe if you’d raised him instead of his “homies” I wouldn’t be standing here.” I don’t think I could sum it up any better. That’s real life.

– A dead guy in the street surrounded by police officers and their vehicles. A crowd of looky-loos stands at the perimeter. The mother of the deceased forces her way into the scene, crying and hollering, “My baby. Why, why, why!” Seems like Sammy knew what he was talking about, huh? Yep, and I’ve been to this scene myself…dozens of times.

– There was a bit of racial tension floating around among the officers. It happens, and I’m glad the writers chose to show it. The same occurs along gender lines. BUT, cops work through it, and in the end they cover each other’s backs. No matter what…usually.

– Salinger says, “Fighting gang crime is like punching water. No matter how hard you hit it you can’t seem to leave a dent.” That’s the way officers feel, sometimes. No matter how hard you work, or how many you take off the street, they just keep coming…and coming, and coming.

– Someone referred to the AK-47 as a “neighborhood gun.” This happens quite often. A weapon is passed around to various gang members who use it for various crimes. Sometimes, the weapon is kept by a single person in a central location so others can get it as needed…sort of like checking out a library book.

– The scene where the entry team kicked in a front door, and the bad guy ran out the back into the waiting arms of detectives, was a good one. The runner had a planned escape route with convenient “helpers” (chairs, etc.) placed along the way to assist in climbing over fences. It reminded me a similar incident…We were trying to rid a neighborhood of drug and gang activity and one of our methods was quite similar to the tactics used on Southland. One night a group of uniformed officers hit the neighborhood at once, jumping out of unmarked vans. This caused the drug dealers to run, and their pre-planned escape routes included running through holes they’d cut in the chain-link fencing throughout those particular projects. Little did they know that I, and a few other detectives, were waiting on the other side of those holes. As they darted through, I used my steel Maglite to give each one a little “love tap” on the chins. They hit the dirt like falling trees.

– Cooper tells Ben, “You’ve got to learn when to turn off the camera inside your head.” That’s how cops survive the carnage. You turn it off. Unfortunately, not everyone can do that and it eventually takes its toll.

– John and Ben just happened to notice the shooting suspect’s vehicle in the line of traffic ahead of them. This happens quite often in real life…a patrol officer spots a stolen car in a hotel parking lot; she passes a car with a wanted suspect at the wheel, etc. Yes, sometimes luck provides the opportunity.

– Another good quote from this episode…”Remember what it was like the first time you put on your blues and stood in front of a mirror? Makes you remember why you became a cop.”

Finally…I can’t seem to warm up to Lydia’s new partner. Maybe she’ll grow on me. The problem is, however, her presence has already weakened the Lydia character. Nope, Lydia is no longer the tough cop she once was. And that’s a shame.

And Sammy’s wife…For me, she’s Southland’s Lanie Parish. And if you follow my Castle reviews you know that’s not a good thing.

Southland: Let It Snow

Well, for months we waited to see the SouthLand officers hit the streets of L.A. again, and did they ever hit the ground running, literally.  I had high expectations for this third season and once again, creator/writer Ann Biderman delivered the goods. Of course, the cast, crew, and other pros associated with the show all pulled their weight, and then some. The season opener was superb. A cut far above all other cop shows.

I like this show for several reasons. One…they get it right. Two…I’ve had the pleasure of being in contact with Michael Cudlitz (John Cooper) for quite a while and he’s the real deal. In fact, Michael called me last summer—it was a rainy Saturday afternoon—, and after chatting for just a few minutes I sensed that he’s a hard worker who’s extremely dedicated to his craft, the show, and to his fans. But what impressed me most about Michael is his desire to portray  real-life police officers as accurately as possible. And that quest for accuracy seems to be a common thread among everyone involved with SouthLand.

Michael Cudlitz

Anyway, that’s a little tidbit of inside information. Now on with the review…

“Police officers often find themselves frustrated by the limitations of the legal system. Sometimes cops have to improvise…”

The episode opened showing the sharp contrast between the health and vigor of a new, young police officer (Ben easily running up a long, steep flight of stairs) as opposed to the older, seasoned cop who’s showing the aches, pains, and battle scars that come with years of working the streets (John grimacing with acute back pain). This “in with the new and out with the old” transition is one that remains unspoken among the ranks. And it sneaks up on you. One day you’re chasing a shoplifter down a back alley while the “old guys” watch from the seats of their patrol cars. The next day you suddenly find yourself sitting in your own car watching the rookie chase and tackle a purse snatcher. This is a real part of police work and Southland is the only show on TV that “knows” and shows that part of the life.

– Two detectives are shown shaking down two young gang members. Their pat down techniques were textbook, and they both looked very natural and relaxed during the search. In fact, they looked like they’d been doing this sort of thing for years.

– Cooper, while investigating a missing person case, sees the victim’s purse hanging in her locker at work. Instantly, he knows the woman is missing. He says, “Women don’t leave their purses.” This was a good observation. And it’s true. Find a purse, call the detectives. Because you’ve probably got a case.

– Detectives were questioning witnesses and generally poking around for evidence when one of the investigators asked Cooper and Sherman to give someone a ride home. Well, that sort of thing happens all the time. Detectives often ask patrol officers to do leg work for them.

– The scene where the K-9 searches for the missing woman was pretty darn realistic. Dogs are quite anxious to please their handlers. They’re trained that way. Doing what they do is a game to them so they get a little excited when they think they’re about to “play.” The dog’s nose in the air showed he was searching for the scent, or that he’d already picked up on the scent of the woman. Great scene. I’m partial to dogs anyway, since I had the pleasure of working with two of the coolest police K-9’s ever.

–  Two bodies found beneath a highway overpass prompted the detectives to turn to the local patrol officer (Chickie) for answers to their routine questions. Detectives realize that no one knows a particular area better than the patrol officers who work it day in and day out. The uniforms know all the regular crooks, and they know where they eat, sleep, buy their drugs and booze, and they know where they hide out. This conversation was on the money.

– The Southland crew used cop-slang phrases, such as “snitch killing,” “light them up,” “the shakes,” and “call the W.C.” And their use of of those terms and phrases roll of their tongues as if they were part of their everyday vocabulary.

Snitch killing – to kill someone who provides information to the police.

W.C. – Watch Commander. A watch commander is the officer in charge of a particular shift. Also known as the OIC.

Light them up – initiate a traffic stop by turning on the blue lights.

The shakes – people (usually street people) who have been searched or questioned (shaken down) while seeking information about an incident.

Officer #1, “You find out anything?

Officer #2, “Nothing from the shakes. But I did find a bullet casing on the ground.”

– Cooper quells a tense situation in a store where an irate customer is arguing with the clerk over a three-dollar difference in a refund. To settle the dispute Cooper reaches into his pocket, pulls out three one dollar bills, and gives them to the customer. As they say…been there, done that, and I’ve seen many other officers fork over a few bucks for various reasons. By the way, Cooper carried his money in his pocket, folded. Not in a wallet. That’s the way many police officers carry their cash. It’s tough to carry a wallet in a uniform pocket. Seems like it never fails to catch on items hanging from a gun belt. Also, you’re forever getting into scuffles and you simply don’t want it fall out of your pocket while you’re rolling around on the ground fighting with a combative pickpocket. Good detail.

– Speaking of details, the firefight in the street was incredibly accurate, from the dull pings heard when rounds struck the patrol car to the way these guys hold their weapons. Great scene. I did, however, worry about Ben confronting a shooter after he’d removed his vest. But, I believe it would have played out just like that in real life. This was a nice, tension-filled scene.

– Lydia asked the murder suspect to remove his shirt so she could examine his skin for scratches. Another good detail. Cops do this all the time and it pays off.

– Lydia said, “I believe in hope.” She was referring to the hope she had for finding the missing woman alive. I think all officers hang onto that hope until the last second because their ultimate goal is to protect people from harm. To find someone alive and well makes an officer feel that it was worth the effort and that they performed well.

– The two detectives who questioned Reyes, the man responsible for the deaths of the two guys dumped under the bridge, found themselves in a situation where they were surrounded by bad guys and were about to be on the receiving end of an old-fashioned beating. Instead of standing their ground and going toe to toe with the over-sized thugs, they decided to get in their car and leave. Smart move. A dead hero is still dead.

I could go on and on about why SouthLand is so realistic, and it is, but I’d like to leave a few accolades for the next episode. Wouldn’t want to swell their heads too much. How about you? What did you see right, or wrong, in this episode?