Southland: Cop Or Not – A Review

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

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15 replies
  1. dcfowler1
    dcfowler1 says:

    Mack and all…although yes, Russell was momentarily PO’ed about they guy apparently getting off, I think his financial situation was more on point here. Remember, his estranged wife froze him out of their bank accounts, and Lydia turned him down for a hefty loan.

    I don’t think he was trying to get back at Lydia for that…I think he has feelings for her…but the photos were accessible, and a big tempting target for a guy who was out of money and getting desparate. -Dave

  2. Mack
    Mack says:

    dcfowler1, Russell is also my prime suspect but I’m not sure money is the motivation. He was pretty upset when the rock star was released. Remember he stormed out muttering about how he is guilty. Also the answering machine rant got turned into a ring tone and didn’t he bring the women to Lydia with the recording? I think he was trying to make it hard for the rock star.

    I guess they have to suspect Lydia since she did take a photo but all along she said that she didn’t think he did it.

  3. avdrummerboy
    avdrummerboy says:

    I figured it was a seating check of some sort, knowing that an officer just died there, you want to cover all your bases. That is also a wonderful scene seeing as how Sammy’s partner called for backup in the most calm of voices even though anyone knows that he was ready for a new pair of trousers!!! Just one more trick officers learn- hopefully- after a few backup calls.

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    drummerboy – You’re right. He sure did it – pulled the weapon, slipped the slide back and released it. But, I think it was a reassurance check that a round was in the chamber. I say that because he didn’t pull the slide back far enough to chamber a new round. I watched it a couple of times, for what it’s worth. But I can certainly ask the writer, and will.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I didn’t see that, drummerboy. I’ll have to go back and look now. All I remember him doing was going for the radio and calling for backup. Can’t hardly believe the technical advisers on this show would let that happen. They’re all cops.

  6. Mack
    Mack says:

    OK, I just uploaded a couple of photos I took with my smart phone and Picasa knows that the image was taken by a Motorola Droid2 and it looks like the Droid attaches a device identifier to the image since two photos had the same identifier.

  7. Mack
    Mack says:

    It will be interesting to see how they handle the photo leak investigation. It is possible to get the brand and maybe even the model of the smart phone from EXIF data in the image. I think Lydia’s supervisor only said something about the resolution. I have a strong suspicion who leaked the image.

  8. avdrummerboy
    avdrummerboy says:

    Very good review as always.

    My only gripe about the show and I don’t know if anyone else caught this (or if it was even what I saw) was when Sammy and his partner for the day (I can’t remember the name either) are at the corner of the attack and all the gang members start coming out his partner takes out his gun and it looks to me like he racked it, that would never happen, no officer I know carries on duty outside of condition 1. Though he may have simply been checking the chamber just as a comfort to know that it was indeed loaded, they were getting into a hairy situation.

  9. dbschlosser
    dbschlosser says:

    A nice touch of parallelism in this episode was the different experience of children affected by the death of a caretaker. The celebrity’s children were delivered into the arms of other family members and whisked away from the police station under escort. The rather less affluent victim’s child was taken to the police station and delievered into the arms of a social worker.

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