Southland: Discretion – A Review

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!

9 replies
  1. D.
    D. says:

    Thanks for the details on the episode. Could someone please repeat the exchange between Sammy and the guy with the shaved head (working on his car) when Sammy and Nate were bringing baby supplies to the woman in the hopes she’d have information on Flaco’s whereabouts? I only caught fragments of the dialogue.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Yeah, I noticed that, too, and was surprised by it. They reminded me of the patches on Andy and Barney’s uniforms.

    I had nearly 6 pages of notes after watching and it would’ve taken hours to list everything on the blog (obviously I didn’t). So thanks for the help, guys.

  3. dcfowler1
    dcfowler1 says:

    My nitpicky self noted that they just had generic “County Sheriff” patches, and not authentic LASD patches though!

  4. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Thanks, Dave. See, the detail in this show is absolutely incredible.

    Did you also notice the deputies wore vests? The outlines were clearly visible beneath their uniform shirts.

  5. dcfowler1
    dcfowler1 says:

    4 fingers = Code 4, no assistance needed. So, when another unit arrives, the initial responder signals with four fingers, and the secondary unit can leave.


  6. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Mack – Honestly, I’m not sure in this case. We used those gestures to indicate the number of suspect’s inside a house, car, etc.

    Bob – What can I say? All good points.

    Pat – No, it’s not illegal to break into your own house. However, if a court orders a spouse out and to stay away, then yes, it would be illegal. But that wasn’t the case in last night’s episode (I addressed this briefly in the paragraph directly below Sammy’s photo above).

  7. PatMarin
    PatMarin says:

    Great episode and I love watching the characters interact and then reading what you say about it.

    I had a question or comment on Sammy. Is it really illigal for him to break into a house that he is paying the mortgage on? His wife doesn’t seem to have a job so she sure isn’t paying it.

    It will be interesting to see what happens with Sammy.

    Pat Marinelli
    Last nights show seems to have set up a lot of changes to happen in the lives of Southland’s PD.

  8. Bob Mueller
    Bob Mueller says:

    Wow, what an episode. Emotional overload once I was done watching. Between Sammy almost self-destructing, and the revelation from Ben’s mom, I felt beyond drained. The talent from the entire cast is just phenomenal. Jonathon Lisko really did a great job with this episode, and I look forward to his work later in the season.

    Jamie McShane’s portrayal as shift sergeant was great. He knows Sherman has talent, and knows that he needs to jerk him short and make him understand how close he is to the line. That scene brought back a couple of uncomfortable memories of alpha-charlies, it was so good. McShane is very well cast for the role.

    The partner action between Sammy and Nate is great. You WILL do anything for your partner, because you KNOW they will do anything for you. Crash at my place for a week or two? Sure. Move your stuff? Sure. Cover my butt in a gunfight? You betcha. But by the same token, letting your partner move in for a week can strain any relationship. You need some time to decompress after a shift, and if you’re living with the same guy you’re working with, there’s hardly any down time, and that down time is critical in a job like law enforcement.

    The domestic scene was very well done. They happen anywhere, and tactically difficult locations are the norm. They don’t happen in the middle of a 20 by 20 room with plenty of space to maneuver. And they develop entirely too quickly. Domestics are one of the top calls where cops get hurt or killed. Cooper yelling “Background!” as he tried to warn Ben not to shoot the abuser was perfect. Cooper’s got tactical awareness that Ben still needs to develop. Perfect place to deploy the Taser as John did, too. And yes, Tasers really do have laser sights on them. I liked that the abuser didn’t drop like the proverbial sack of cement. Not everyone does. People react differently to a Taser. When I was an officer, I carried a Nova XR-5000 stungun. During training, we all got zapped with it, and some of us were less resistant to it than others.

    And speaking of tactical awareness, you see a great example the first time John and Ben respond to the restaurant. John stops the car out of sight of anyone in the place and creeps up to the window, peeking in. Screeching to a stop in front of the place and charging through the front door is a good way to not go home at the end of your shift.

    The byplay between John and Ben away from the action, especially the scene outside the precinct was superbly ironic. John was calling on Ben to control his behavior when he himself is dealing with a substance abuse issue.

    It was interesting to watch Lydia and Russell throughout the day. They’re still trying to figure out what’s going on in their relationship. They were good partners, and there are some feelings there, but can they handle that one of them is still on the Job and one isn’t? It’s good to watch Lydia examine things a little bit. I think Josie’s making her stop and think about some aspects of her personality that she maybe has locked away for a while.

    Discretion is a terrific tool, but like any tool, it can hurt people when used without care. Another excellent episode.

  9. Mack
    Mack says:

    At one point John holds up four fingers to Ben. Later, at Sammy’s house, one of the sheriff deputies shows three fingers to his partner behind him (I think it was three). What’s the significance of these gestures?

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