Southland: Butch and Sundance


Last night was the end of our ride-a-long program with the crew from Southland, and what a ride it was. The season finale proved to be one of the best episodes to date. The action was nonstop. Secrets were uncovered. And the acting was so doggone realistic it almost made me radio for back up a couple of times.

These guys are comfortable playing their parts, which adds to the realism. So many actors try to wear a police uniform, but their feeble attempts come off as clumsy and sometimes even clownish. There’s a huge amount of pride that goes into putting on a police uniform, and that pride exudes from each of the actors on this show. No one had to tell me that these guys have spent some time hanging out with real LAPD officers. It shows. And that extra effort, along with the wonderfully layered individual plots and stories, is what makes this show a cut above the rest.

Last night’s show opened with a statement that was very powerful. It went something like this…”On this night, Officer Ben Sherman would learn that a cop is only as strong as his partner.”

My early days as a police officer were spent working for a county sheriff’s office. The department was small with a very tight budget, which often meant working an entire county alone, or with only one other deputy. Many times we weren’t afforded the luxury of calling for back up to get us out of tight jams, and believe me, I’ve got the scars to prove it. So we learned to be creative. We also learned the strengths and weaknesses of our individual coworkers. For example, we knew not to wade into a mob of knife-wielding drunks when working with one of the smaller statured, less aggressive deputies. If we did, we’d spend a good portion of our much-needed energy protecting our partner, which was like tying one hand behind your back before jumping into the melee.

However, when teamed up with someone like…

Well, the sky was the limit.

So, the voice-over was absolutely correct…A cop is only as strong as his partner.


This episode was crammed full of action and individual stories, so we’re only going to hit the high points, starting with…

Cooper, Sherman, and Chickie find themselves crammed into a single patrol car, and there’s nothing worse than being the low officer on the totem pole, because that’s the officer who gets the back seat. Remember, this is the seat that’s been occupied by puking, urinating, sweaty drunks with greasy, lice-infested hair. And, the rear door locks and windows are normally inoperable, or they’re controlled by the driver. Not to mention that you’re riding in a cage with little or no visibility. Oh, and the leg room is worse than that of coach seating on a commercial airline.


The three officers are riding together as part of a maximum deployment operation, hoping to nab a serial rapists posing as a police officer. The idea of a maximum deployment is to flood the streets with as many officers as possible. We, too, did this when special problems arose. It can be very effective. Costly, but effective.

Lydia is pleasantly surprised to find her old partner, Russell, back on the job, and the reunited duo quickly take on a double murder case. The crime scene is messy (shotgun blasts) and Russell soon learns he’s still physical incapable of helping his partner with the investigation.


Lydia asks someone—a person from the M.E.’s office, I guess—if they know the time of death. The person glances at one of the victims and says, “Lividity puts it between 1 and 2.” This was a bit disappointing to hear, especially from a show that puts so much emphasis on getting it right. Why? Because lividity (the draining of blood to the lowest portions of the body due to gravity) isn’t really used to tell time of death. It’s just not an accurate indicator. Sure, lividity has its own medico-legal purpose, but that’s normally to tell investigators if a body has been moved after death occurs.

The process of lividity begins immediately after death, but we normally begin to see its effects, the reddish/purple staining of tissue, within 1-2 hours after death and becomes fixed between 6-12 hours after death.

Here’s a chart depicting the important changes in a body that take place after death.

Time since death…..Change observed
1-2 hours: ………Early signs of lividity.
2-5 hours: ………Clear signs of lividity throughout body.
5-7 hours: ………Rigor mortis begins in face.
8-12 hours: …….Rigor mortis established throughout the body, extending to arms and legs.
12 hours: ……….Body has cooled to about 250C internally. Lividity is fixed.
20-24 hours: …..Body has cooled to surrounding temperature.
24 hours: ……….Rigor mortis begins to disappear from the body in roughly the same order as it appeared.
36 hours: ……….Rigor mortis has completely disappeared.
48 hours: ……….Body discoloration shows that decomposition has begun.


We see John Cooper and Chickie arguing again. Cooper tries to convince Chickie that she’s unfit for work on the street, and unfortunately for her, she proves him right when the trio (Ben, John, and Chickie) approach a car owned by a man they believe may be the rapist. Chickie gives the guy the command, “Could you shut off your engine and get out of the car, please?”

Remember, the rapist is a dangerous man.

The man (who, by the way, was making out with a woman in the front seat when the officers showed up), asks the question they all ask, “Why?”

Chickie responds, “Why?”

This was not the time to lose control, allow the guy to stall, and give the suspect time to grab a weapon.

Ben, sensing Chickie’s loss of command presence, immediately took control, ordering the guy out of the car. He then went through the textbook commands of, “Walk backwards toward me, hands behind your head, interlock your fingers, etc.”

Cooper then stepped up to order the woman out of the car…”Passenger, step out of the car…”

Great scene. Shows how it’s really done. It was just the wrong guy.

The trio (John, Ben, and Chickie) hear what sounds like an automobile crash. They immediately call it in and report to the scene. The vehicle is overturned with the injured driver trapped beneath. What happened next was very realistic. I’ve seen things similar to this done more than once over the years. Cooper tells other officers to push down on the rear of the car while he and Sherman lift the front. The weight is lifted from the victim, which allows Chickie to pull the guy free. Then, the three officers continue about their business. Unfortunately, part of that business is dealing with Cooper’s injured back—an injury that could take him off the streets for good. But he deals with it in his own way, through his addiction to pain killers.


In the final scene, Chickie is on her way home from work, in plainclothes, and runs across the rapists’ faux police car. He’d stopped a woman and was in the process of sexually assaulting her when Chickie found him. After a brief struggle (actually, she pounded the guy’s head quite nicely) Chickie cuffed the rapist. Her final words of the season, “I’m the cop. I’m a cop.”

Looks like she just regained her confidence.

What a great show! I certainly hope TNT treats us to another season.

Southland: What Makes Sammy Run

“Veteran cops know better than to take work home with them.” What a great opening line for this week’s episode. Great advice, too, for all cops. Unfortunately, even though the old-timers know better, the job is in their blood and that’s where it’ll remain until the day the bagpipes play.

A cop’s job is a tough, grueling job. Police officers see all sides and aspects of human life. They witness people’s behavior at its best, and at its worst. They laugh, they fight, and they hurt—all in an eight-hour shift. Their job is to protect the citizens within their jurisdictions. To do so, they’re sworn to enforce the laws of their communities and of their state and country. That’s it. That’s all they’re required to do.

No one orders a cop to spend a few minutes talking to a lonely, elderly person whose spouse of 50 years has recently passed away.  It’s not a requirement of an officer’s job to hold the hand of a sick drug addict, or to cry when a child is injured. They don’t have to work 36 hours straight, for free, while searching for someone’s little girl that didn’t come home after school. The job is an emotional roller coaster. It’s a career that’s brimming with pain, hurt, and sorrow. And that, Southland fans, is what makes Sammy run…

Now on with the review.

They’re back—the killers with the pointed-toe cowboy boots. And this time they shoot a couple of guys in a crowded nightclub. Investigators arrive to work the scene and we hear quite a bit of joking and clowning around. This is normal. Cops do what they have to do to deal with day-in and day-out death. It’s not meant to be disrespectful to the victims or their families. Not at all. It’s merely a coping mechanism for the officers.

– Detectives are seen during a brainstorming session in front of a large whiteboard. This is good stuff. I had one in my office for the same purpose. My partner and I spent many hours hashing out theories and ideas over the material on the board. Many cases have been solved in this manner. We also used the board for pre-search warrant/raid briefing sessions. Very realistic.

– A detective’s daughter was in the club when the shooting occurred, and she was sprayed with blood spatter from one of the victims. The spatter looked genuine. In fact, the angle of impact of the drops and droplets were depicted accurately. So accurate that I could almost picture a point of convergence. Great eye for detail.

– Sammy is shown trying to mentor a kid who’s teetering on the fence between good and bad. He takes the time to go to the kid’s house to speak with the boy’s mother. He takes the boy to a movie and to a restaurant. He’s trying to do all the right things, but the kid still manages to fall onto the bad side of the fence where he shoots and kills another kid. Unfortunately, the boy has been brought up in that type environment and lifestyle, which all to often becomes the only way of life they know how to lead. It’s like training to be a cop. Instructors drill the same information into their heads, day in and day out, until it’s ingrained into their minds. No longer do they have to stop and think before acting on a specific situation. Instead, they react instinctively. The same is true for kids who’ve been brought up on the streets. It’s all they know, and what they know is what they’ll do. Every time. Again, I can’t say enough good things about the writers and actors of this show. They’ve really done their homework. They may not admit it, but somebody from this show has lived this life. I know, because I’ve been there, too.

– I liked the scene where Cooper snatched the Ipod from the guy taking the upskirt photos. Not exactly legal, but I’m sure I’d have done the same thing (breaking the phone, not taking the photo).

– There’s a domestic call that Cooper and Sherman answer, and guess who’s at the heart of it? Yep, it’s the pointy-toe-cowboy-boots folks. Cooper tells Ben that they’re going to search inside the residence to make sure there’s no one inside who’s injured, or possibly dead. This is a legal search, without a warrant, but only if they search for people, not “things.” This type search is for the safety of everyone involved—officers and residents. All too often, an attacker lies in wait, sending the terrified victim outside to tell officers that all is well. Then, after the officers leave the attack continues. But, all sorts of evidence is discovered during these searches, such as the nearly 4 million dollars in cash that Ben discovered.


– Once the cash and guns are found (legally, because the lump looked like a person lying under the blanket) Cooper runs outside and yells, “Hook ’em up (handcuff them).” This was the right thing to do. Those two killers knew it was only a matter of time before officers found their stash, and they’d certainly have no problem killing someone to get away.

– During the search a cellphone rings and one of the detectives answers. I’ve done this many, many times. I’ve also responded to messages left on pagers. Once, I even told a guy to come by the residence we’d just raided because I wanted to buy some dope from him. He did, and we arrested the big dummy. After all, he’d only walked by five or six police cars to come calling with a big ‘ol bag of dope in his jacket pocket.

This episode continued with two other raids—Trinney’s place and of a boat used for drug smuggling. The entry/raid teams carried out the procedure pretty much like a real team would.

Officers discovered Trinney’s severed head in a box, and again made jokes about the horror they’d stumbled upon. That’s probably what real cops would do to cope if faced with a similar scenario. Sure, it would bother anyone to find something that gruesome, but when you see things like that on a regular basis…well, you have to deal with it somehow.

Once again, this show tops the list when it comes to realism. Each week I feel as if I’m back on the job, chasing bad guys with Cooper and Sherman. Great show!

By the way, the print of Ben’s vest can be clearly seen in the photo above. This show is all about detail.

Southland: Butch and Sundance

Last week’s episode of Southland hit the ground running, and things were no different this time around. Butch and Sundance, the title of last night’s show, was written by television veteran, Mitchell Burgess. You might remember Burgess from another little project of his called The Sopranos. He also had a major hand in other shows, such as Northern Exposure and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The guy’s certainly no stranger to success. Combine Burgess with Southland creator Ann Biderman and you’ve got a nice little recipe for action-packed, can’t miss TV.

So, like last week, buckle up. We’re riding with the two officers above – John Cooper and Ben Sherman. First call – a gruesome homicide scene. Victims – a mother and her two daughters. The father/husband is found at the scene, badly beaten. It seems he survived the brutal attack.

– Cooper and Sherman enter the victim’s home through an unlocked front door. They approach with weapons drawn and begin to methodically clear the house, one room at a time, checking all doors and hiding places along the way.

This scene was absolutely fantastic. And it was very realistic for several reasons. One – The procedure they used to clear the house was almost from a training academy text book. Two – The background sounds were on the money. If you have this show recorded do yourself a favor and replay this scene a couple of times. The first time watch AND listen. The second time close your eyes and just listen, and you’ll hear a very quiet house. So quiet that you’ll almost feel your own heart beating against your chest as the officers search each room. To do this in real life can be almost maddening. You’ll also hear the creaking of the leather on their gun belts, something every officer will recognize. It’s also a sound that we all become used to over the years, but we’re acutely aware of it when in dangerous situations, where total silence is key to survival.

Officers sometimes use their free hand to hold the leather still so that it doesn’t give away their position. Even the floorboards creaked a bit as the officers made their way up the stairs. Great stuff!

When the guys finish searching the house, Sherman lets a huge sigh escape from deep within. His face sheds a thick layer of anxiety along with the sigh. This is how it really is, folks. Cops are the first to dive into the danger pool, but when all is said and done the glue that held them together during the danger melts just a bit. A cop’s day on the job is a constant emotional roller coaster ride. Their adrenaline flows up and down almost as often as waves crashing on a beach.

What they’ve just witnessed – the carnage – has visibly shaken both officers, and they’ll handle the stress in their own ways later in the show. Cops rarely let down their guard, exposing actual emotions and reactions to the horrors they’ve seen. As Officer Cooper put it, “Sometimes, as a cop, you see things nobody should see.”

This show does something really well, it shows the psychological aspect of police work. Not how officers deal with people, but how the job affects them emotionally.

Lydia and Rene have two different styles of crime-solving. This is normal when new partners are thrust together. There’s no time for learning personalities and habits. Crime is like the weather. You know it’s there, but you never know what to expect from one day to another. And it doesn’t wait for you to adjust to what’s happening outside. These two detectives do a pretty good job of showing us how officers get the job done no matter what’s going on personally.

The attention to detail in this show is incredible. Officer Cooper (above) placed his keys in his gun belt, near the buckle. Real cops do this, too.  He also hangs his sunglasses from the pen slot in his shirt pocket. Cooper is left handed, so his magazine pouches are placed to the right of the belt buckle on his gun belt. This is so he’ll have easy access for reloading with his right hand. Cooper’s pepperspray canister is also strategically placed on the right side. FYI – The narrow vertical straps with two silver snaps, one above the other, are called belt keepers. They attach the gun belt to the officer’s regular belt that’s threaded through the belt loops on his pants. Belt keepers prevent the gun belt from sliding down to the officers ankles.

– The undercover narcotics team holds a briefing session to discuss details of their assignment. This was pretty realistic. I held meetings similar to this prior to each raid. I did it so everyone would know what to expect when we entered a residence – number of people inside, children, weapons present, how many rooms, where we thought the drugs would be located, exits, hazards, etc.

– Cooper and Sherman finish their day with the brutal murder scene weighing heavily on their minds. They each handle it differently. Cooper pours a drink from his well-stocked stash of alcohol. This, he mixes with the pain medication he’s taking for back pain – medication that’s become a huge monkey on his back. He’s hooked, and he’s buying extras from a drug dealer in the gay bar he frequents. This is the cop stuff citizens rarely ever see.

Sherman can’t sleep. He’s sitting up clock-watching, while the images of those dead girls and their mother play in his mind like a never-ending video. I’ve seen the same show many times. There’s no ending.

The next day, both Cooper and Sherman are exhausted, and it shows. Their tempers are on a short fuse. This is so true in police work. Many times officers work overtime, maybe even a double shift, but they still must report for their regular duty the next day. There’s no calling in because you’re tired, or because you couldn’t sleep. There’s no one to take your place because you had demons clawing at the inside of your skull all night long.

– The entire surveillance van scene wasn’t all that action-packed, which was a good thing, because that’s what surveillance is really like. It’s like watching snow melt in Boston…it’s slow and boring. I especially liked the officer who had to take a second to wipe the sweat from his face with a handkerchief. It’s hot in those vehicles, folks! You can’t run the heat or air conditioning because to do so would blow your cover.

– The scene where Det. Sammy Bryant chases thug Orlando on foot was pretty cool. Orlando tossed a gun into the water just before eating concrete when Bryant tackled him. By the way, I don’t know how cops do it, but they almost always catch every single person that runs from them. I amazed myself sometimes when I caught people. Anyway, divers were called to retrieve the weapon. Yes, this happens all the time. You never know what crimes that weapon was used to help commit – robberies, murders, etc. We didn’t have our own divers, but the sheriff’s office in the next county did, so I called on them quite often to search the bodies of water in my jurisdiction. Good scene.

– Cooper and Sherman are seen having a typical cop’s lunch of fast food when they get a call. The lunch is abandoned and off they go. This is a daily occurrence. In fact, I’ve left many restaurants in mid-meal, and had to return later to pay for my half-eaten food after working a murder, rape, or car accident. Sometimes, the restaurant folks were nice enough to bring a second plate at no charge. They heard us talking, so I think they felt sorry for us, knowing what we’d just been through.

– The car chase scene that ended with the green car on its roof was pretty realistic, as is almost everything in this show. The officer in the passenger seat assumed the role of co-pilot, guiding the driver to the crook’s location. He also assumed charge of radio duty, which is what should happen in real life. That leaves the driver free to concentrate on driving at 900 miles per hour while dodging old ladies, kids on bikes, animals, and fruit stands.

The officers attempted to pull people from the burning car. Been there, done that. You’re not always successful. This car exploded. I was a little disappointed to see this happen, because in the real world that rarely ever happens. I’ve seen cars burn until the tires melt and turn to black, oozing goo, and they never blow up. Explosions just don’t happen all that often – actually, almost never.

– The father/husband of the victims was predictably the killer in this case. I say predictably, not because the show was poorly crafted, it wasn’t, but because he was the likely suspect. Why? Because he survived the initial attack where his family was brutally murdered. He was my prime suspect all along.

Lydia handcuffed the killer to his hospital bed, then told the uniformed officers to make sure she got her cuffs back. I’d love to have a dollar for every time I’ve said, or heard that sentence. Then I could pay for the cuffs I never saw again. Handcuffs have serial numbers engraved on them, but it’s still easy to lose them when transferring prisoners from one officer to another. That’s why transport officers sometimes use Flexcuffs.

– Sherman goes to dinner with his sisters, where he’s introduced to a blind date. The group begins to grill him about the recent murder case. They talk about the murders almost as if they’re describing a video game. Sherman doesn’t want to discuss it and leaves. This stuff really can wear on your emotions, so it was no surprise to me when he decided to hit the road.

– Cooper’s experiencing his own troubles. He’s addicted to pain meds, and that’s how he’s dealing with his problems. He’s a ticking time bomb, and I can’t wait to see how the writers deal with the forthcoming explosion.

I said it last week and I’ll say it again. This show is one of the best cop shows on TV. Maybe the best as far as realism goes. I’m still not crazy over the jiggly camera work (actually, I don’t like that at all), but the writers and actors have really done their homework!

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Writers’ Police Academy

* Please, please, please register for your hotel rooms! They’re going fast, and I’ve only managed to secure a limited number. There are several other large events in the area the same weekend as our event. The hotel will not bill you for the room until check in. Remember, the hotel is providing free shuttle service to and from the airport, and to and from the academy. They’re also providing free breakfast for registered guests who’re attending the Writers’ Police Academy. All that for a mere $79 per night. I’ve never, ever seen a deal like that at any other writer event.

If you’ve already registered for your room, but neglected to ask for the WPA deal, please call the hotel to make the change. It’s very important that you do so.


* Important Notice – We are very, very close to reaching capacity for the FATS training. So close, I can actually see the last seat in the class. Please register now to reserve your spot! We just added some pretty cool real-life scenarios to this training. I can’t wait to see you guys in these shoot/don’t shoot situations. I was in the FATS room yesterday and learned that you’ll be firing real Sig Sauers and Glocks at your human targets.

I met with the police academy officials yesterday and we’ve added even more to the program. We’ve included a wonderful EMS segment where you’ll have the opportunity to treat gunshot and stabbing victims alongside real EMS workers. You’ll use actual equipment and supplies, and you’ll load your patients into a real working ambulance.

Even I’m excited about the Writers’ Police Academy. There’s never been anything like this anywhere. This is not like a citizens police academy. This is the real deal!!

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LAPD officer in uniform.


Southland: Butch and Sundance


I haven’t carried a gun or worn a badge in years, but last night while watching the season opener of Southland I felt that I was back working a shift. And I was exhausted when the credits began to roll. Why? Because I backed up every single officer on each of their calls. I fought side by side with them, and I helped cuff the bad guys when the dust settled. Shoot, I even sensed the adrenaline rush you experience when diving head first into a full-blown, angry mob. By far, this show is absolutely the most realistic cop drama on television.

As most of you know, I review cop shows to point out the good and bad police procedure, forensics, and investigation techniques. I do this to help writers get their facts straight when it comes to cops and robbers. Well, this one was easy, because the show’s writers and actors have really done their homework. I didn’t find a single thing thing wrong. Yep, you heard right. Nothing. Nada. Zip and zero. That’s not to say there weren’t errors, but the action was so fast-paced (just like a real day on the job) that it was difficult to pick out everything, and I used a DVR to stop the action when needed.

I jotted down nearly three pages of notes while the show was on, and here are a few of the points that stood out:

First of all, a portion of the show was filmed in South Central L.A., on location. The scenario was so realistic to the local residents that they actually thought the police were in their neighborhood and began to throw things and argue with them.

Okay, buckle in. We’re going to ride with these guys for a while.

– Detective Lydia Adams is shown leaving her house in the morning, heading to her car on the way to work. She’s on the cell phone talking to her partner who’s in the hospital recovering from something that happened in an earlier episode. The scene is minimal as far as the rest of the show goes; however, it shows the relationship cops experience with their partners and their job. For many cops, the job is first in their lives. It’s all they have and it’s all they know. They live, eat, sleep, and think police work. Many officers do not socialize outside their private law enforcement world, so this is all they do, and often it’s all they care about, really. They never completely trust anyone who doesn’t wear a badge. After all, their lives are in the hands of their coworkers. Therefore, the bond between officers is stronger than the normal friend-to-friend bond. So, back to Det. Adams. She plays her part quite well. And, she showed all of the above in her opening one-minute scene.

Detective Lydia Adams

– The patrol officer’s shift meeting, or muster as it’s sometimes called, was spot on. Officers normally meet for a few minutes before heading out to the streets. They do so to be briefed on the current state of chaos that’s waiting for them “out there.” They also receive their shift assignments and riding partners, if that’s not a permanent thing. This all varies from department to department. There’s no standard rule, just whatever works for a particular agency.

– A Get Well Soon card was passed among the patrol officers during their shift meeting. One of their crew was in rehab for an alcohol problem. Well, when it came time for Officer Chickie Brown to sign, she was passed over. It seems she was the person who outed the officer, her partner, for his alcohol problem. This is a big no no in many police circles. You take care of your own and you never snitch on a partner. You watch each others backs. That’s the rule. We heard about this again later in the show. The card passing was indicative of what can happen when an officer goes against “the rule.” Other officers may start to shy away. They may even refuse to back up the officer who went against the grain.

Officer Chickie Brown

– Patrol officers on this show actually look and act like real police officers. They even wear vests. You can see the outlines under their uniform shirts.

– The relationship between the Field Training Officer (Officer John Cooper) and his trainee (Ben Sherman) is pretty good.

Officer John Cooper

Officer Ben Sherman

Cooper plays the part well, almost acting like a mother hen watching over a chick. I was a field training officer for several years. It’s our job to make sure the new officers, the ones fresh out of the academy, turn what they’ve learned in classrooms into street-usable material. It’s also an FTO’s job to make sure those rookies are safe. And, it’s the duty of an FTO to make sure the rookies don’t do anything stupid, and believe me, new officers are full to the brim with piss and vinegar and are ready to save the planet in a single shift. I know, because I was once that way. Now I’m just loaded to the gills with things like Geritol.

– The scene where the Mexican gang members shot the informant in the street after a car chase was interesting because it showed their semi-automatic pistols in action. The slides worked as they fed new rounds to the chamber. And they ejected brass as the rounds were fired. Good stuff.

– Cooper and Sherman ran across a guy urinating in an alley. They stopped, as any patrol officer would do, and checked him out. You’d be surprised at the number of solid arrest are made by performing such a simple act. Cops run across all sort of things – drugs, wanted persons, murderers, etc. –  when conducting these little stops. But it was the procedure used by the two officers that impressed me. The search (pat down/frisk) was conducted in text book style. Cooper even stood in a proper stance with his gun side away from the suspect, something that’s not often seen in cop shows. The pat down was also good. He began by asking the suspect if he had anything in his pockets, such as needles, drugs, weapons, etc. Great stuff! Well, we saw this suspect again later in the show as a kidnapper. This was fantastic because that sort of thing happens all the time in police work. Tons of crimes are solved because some officer somewhere stopped and talked to a guy on the street who later commits a crime. Then all the pieces begin to fall into place. Very realistic scene.

– A B&E occurs at a business. The owner comes in to open up and finds the suspect hanging from a rope, because the dumb crook used a rope that was either too short to reach the floor, or it got tangled on his way down to steal whatever it was he came to steal. It sort of looked silly in the show, but it’s not. This stuff really happens. In fact, I once answered a very similar call at 5am one morning. A convenience store owner opened the front door to start the day and found a very large man hanging from the ceiling by one leg. He’d cut a hole in the roof with an ax and when he entered the opening his foot got caught in the duct work that ran between the suspended (no pun intended) ceiling and roof. His upper body crashed through the ceiling grid and that’s where he remained until we released his trapped foot. He was quite happy to see us, by the way.

– The kidnapping suspect was identified by using cameras on ATM machines. This is good stuff. In fact, at the Writers’ Police Academy I’m hosting a night owl session about a brutal murder where the suspect was seen in an ATM camera photo. I have that ATM photo along with all the actual crime scene photos. I’ll be using those and other evidence to guide everyone through the case. This was one of the most convoluted and gruesome murders I’ve ever encountered.

– Detectives visited a jail prisoner, one of their regular snitches, hoping to get some information from him about a current case. The inmate, obviously used to helping the police, was very cordial, laughing and joking with the officers, all the while asking them to help him get out of jail if he found out what they wanted to know. This happens all the time. Cops have a regular network of informants. This one, however, was stabbed by another prisoner later in the show. His attacker caught him at shower time and inserted the blade of a shank in the guy’s abdomen four or five times. Again, this was very realistic, from the jailhouse boxers, to the line of tatted prisoners waiting to take showers, to the way the prisoner wore his orange jumpsuit – the top half hanging down at this waist.

– Cooper and Sherman have a female prisoner in the cage of their car when they hear, “Officer needs assistance. Shots fired.” They take off, pedal to the floor, with the prisoner in the back. Adrenaline leaps to the top of the tank and lights and sirens are going full blast. Yet the officers speak in normal tones of voice, saying things like, “Clear right. Okay on your side.” This was so, so accurate. The driver’s (Sherman’s) head was nearly spinning like a top while he attempted to see everywhere at once to make they didn’t hit anyone, while his partner kept watch on his side of the car. Still, they maintained a calm and very cool demeanor. That’s how it really is, folks. Cops are so used to doing this stuff that it’s almost as normal as breathing.

– The big mob scene, where Officer Chickie Brown and her not-so-hot partner were fighting for their lives was also quite realistic. She was fending off a huge crowd of angry people, but she never let her prisoner go. That’s what cops do. Her backup arrived and they jumped into the pile of people as comfortably as Michael Phelps dives into a swimming pool. Cops do what they do because that’s how they’re trained, and because it’s in their hearts. AND, there was a fellow officer in that pile of people, which meant they all came out safely, or none would, even though she was the officer who reported her partner’s drinking problem. See, this one came around full circle. Nicely done.

And that brings us back to alley-urinating kidnapper, Alan Gaylord. The scene where Officer Sherman and Detective Adams’ new and very obnoxious partner chased Gaylord through the rail yard was excellent. Again, this stuff happens. I could tell another of my stories here where something similar happened to me, but I’ll spare you the details this this time. Let’s just say that this show was the most accurate cop show I’ve ever seen on TV.

You know, when the show was over and I finally let out a breath, I realized I didn’t have a clue what this episode was really about. I’d been so caught up in the action that I wasn’t paying any attention whatsoever to the story, the characters and their emotions…nothing. I think there were some pretty good things going on there, but I missed them. I was too busy reaching for my handcuffs…

*TNT Photos

The Graveyard Shift has some new friends – the folks at TNT and Southland. It seems they’d been following our Castle reviews and asked if we’d have a look at their new series that’s premiering on TNT tonight. Well, I watched what they sent me, and believe it or not, the police procedure is pretty darn good. The writers and directors have even taken the time to inject wonderfully realistic little details you don’t normally find in shows like this. For example, patrol officers wear actual vests (you can see the outlines beneath their uniform shirts just like in real life. They also perform police procedures like real cops (You’ll have to watch the show to see for yourself. No spoilers today). If the rest of the season is as a good as what I’ve seen so far, we’ll certainly be providing you with some great police/forensics information based on upcoming episodes.

The show looks very, very promising, and I’m looking forward to writing a few of my Castle-style reviews for this series. I’ll have the first one ready for you Wednesday morning, along with a few insider tidbits about the show. If you have a chance, watch the season opener and then let’s pick it apart Wednesday morning during the review. I hope everyone enjoys the show, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about it.

The series premieres tonight at 10pm on TNT. The network says, “They Know Drama.” We’ll see how realistic that drama really is, won’t we…

*TNT Photos

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Writers Police Academy

* FYI – If you have chance , please stop by Murderati. Cornelia Read invited me over there to grill me about the Writers’ Police Academy.

* Important Notice – We are very, very close to reaching capacity for the FATS training. So close, I can actually see the last seat in the class. Please register now to reserve your spot!

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Novel Writing Contest is now open!

The Don Knotts Silver Bullet Contest Award winner will receive The Silver Bullet Award, free Writers’ Police Academy registration ($235 value), and have the opportunity to submit their entire manuscript to one of the judges (to be determined later based upon the genre and work itself). Additional prizes forthcoming. Here’s your chance to get your work in front of top agents and publishers! The contest is open to the general public and writers from all genres, not just academy registrants and mystery writers!

Please visit the Writers’ Police Academy website for details.

Contest judges are:

Annette Rogers, Acquisitions Editor of the Poisoned Pen Press, searches for new, unpublished mystery writers. Recent successes include Carolyn Wall SWEEPING UP GLASS, Jeffrey Siger MURDER ON MYKONOS, and Edward Ifkovic LONE STAR. In addition she evaluates and edits manuscripts, corresponds with writers and agents, and fends off Facebook friend requests. Rogers published a bestselling travel book on EGYPT-translated into six languages, wrote for O, The Oprah Magazine, and covered court hearings on the Mormon Bomber case for Time/Life. She has a Masters Degree in History and English.

Benjamin LeRoy is a founder of Tyrus Books-a publisher specializing in crime and dark literary fiction. Before starting Tyrus in July of 2009, he founded and ran Bleak House Books. He lives in Madison, WI where he works on his own writing and is endlessly fascinated with the history of baseball.

Elizabeth Pomada worked at David McKay, Holt Rinehart & Winston, and the Dial Press in New York City before moving to San Francisco in 1970 with her partner and husband, Michael Larsen. Together, they started Michael Larsen – Elizabeth Pomada Literary Agents in 1972. Since then, they have sold books from hundreds of authors to more than 100 publishers. Elizabeth is a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives, The Author’s Guild, ASJA, WNBA and co-founder with Michael of the San Francisco Writers Conference and the Writing for Change conference.

Kimberley Cameron began her literary career as an agent trainee at the Marjel de Lauer Agency in association with Jay Garon in New York. She worked for several years at MGM developing books for motion pictures. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 she became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. Among its clients have been Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Upton Sinclair, and Henry Miller. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and Reece Halsey Paris in 2006. Her associate Elizabeth Evans opened Reece Halsey New York in 2008, and in 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates.