“LAPD officers spend every shift trying to help people who often don’t even know they need help. Some days the trying works better than others.”
When you’re at home watching episodes of Southland, thinking about the excitement, action, and gritty real-life scenes, there’s a cop out there, somewhere, who’s just hopped from her patrol car to chase down a six-foot-tall loser who robbed a liquor store by beating the clerk to death with a baseball bat. In another precinct, two officers are in a foot pursuit of a child rapist. In the county, deputies are running through the dark woods chasing a man who just shot and killed his wife and kids.
“He’s running!” Two words that send an officer’s adrenaline into high gear.
Through dark, blind alleys, over chain-link fences, behind a row of houses in the worst of worst neighborhoods, across a parking lot into a muddy field, around and through parked cars. One has a gun. A flash of metal? The chases go on and on and on. Every day. Every night. Every week. They run and run and run. All while you’re at home eating popcorn while watching Southland, thinking, is this stuff for real? Do officers really do the things we see on Southland? Are their personal stories for real? There can’t be that much action during a single shift…right?
Well, I can sum up answers to all your questions with a single word. Yes.
And that realism began last night with Lydia chasing a young girl, a murder suspect who managed to slice Lydia’s arm with a knife. But we also saw Lydia going through a very personal experience. She’s pregnant and that’s something that will definitely affect her career. Actually, it already has. Imagine fighting crime with a serious case of morning sickness. Think seeing someone else’s guts splattered on a ceiling is fun while your own insides are churning like a strawberry smoothie in a blender?
You see, police work is not like the typical nine-to-five assembly line job, where the happy mother-to-be can take a break when she needs it. Or take it easier than normal while still being productive in her normal job. Nope. A cop absolutely must be able to instantly run faster, jump higher, be stronger, and dodge speeding bullets…at all times, every minute of the day.
For obvious reasons, a pregnant woman could not and should not engage in a toe-to-toe battle with a 300lb knife-wielding, drug-crazed man. No, Lydia’s got some serious desk duty in her future, and that’s just not her style. So I’m anxious to see how she copes with answering phones and rubber-stamping forms all day.
Ben is also going through a few life-changes of his own. He can’t escape the “punching-the-teenage-girl-in-the-nose cloud over his head.” And his partner, Sammy, insists that Ben distance himself from his party-hard lifestyle by moving into the “Land of the Blue,” the section of the suburbs where many of his fellow cops reside.
This episode, Identity, deals with the two sides of police work, the side you all see, the actions of the person wearing the badge and the uniform, and the internal side of that person. The human qualities of the police officer. And we see how all that unfolds during the course of a single shift. Yes, my friends, this was a glimpse, a brief peek, at what it’s like to work the streets as police officer during the course of only one day. Think you’ve seen a lot in your lifetime. Well, try on these shoes…
Cooper and Tang, CoopTang, Tangooper, Tooper, whatever the moniker of the week, is a really good crime-fighting duo. I can see them in any patrol car, in any department in the country.
Michael Cudlitz has really poured himself into this role. So much so that, I think, he’s even gone the extra mile by doing what I’ve seen many cops do, well, the ones who hit the weights pretty hard sometimes do this. It’s a little trick that’s used to make your already decent-looking biceps look even bigger and better, a bit of intimidation factor for the bad guys. You know, “if he looks big and strong I’ll back down quicker.” And that trick is to reduce the size of the uniform sleeve at the point where the bulging muscle is first exposed. The shirt is then tighter around the bicep, making the muscle appear larger. I’ve seen this done many, many times. And, some even pack those large frames into a size too-small-shirt for the same effect.
So…did he, or no? Michael…is there a seamstress in your life? Or, have you achieved the 22″ bicep status?
But, even if that’s the case, Cudlitz has gone the extra mile. He’s fit, healthy, and he’s got decent guns even if he decided to hide them under a normal-size uniform sleeve. One thing’s for sure, though. He’s working out.
Cooper and Tang find themselves on an almost endless quest to help a homeless man, Tom, a marine who’d unfortunately lost contact with much of reality, get off the streets and into a shelter. The shelter kicked the man out because he’d lost his ID (someone had stolen it). Tang, whose father was a marine, was totally obsessed with helping the man, putting his needs above everything else that came up, including the mangled body of someone who’d been hit by a train. Cooper playfully argued with sheriff’s deputies about which department had jurisdiction over the case (part of the badly mangled body was in L.A. while the other section(s) were splattered on the “other side of the tracks.” Tang, on the other hand, ignored the body, the deputies, and Cooper, by spending her time on the telephone talking to people who wouldn’t help the homeless man (Tom) with obtaining new identification cards and papers.
And then there was the “invisible man” who stopped CoopTang in the street, professing his love for their patrol car. The man, who was obviously on vacation from another planet, decided to show Cooper his karate expertise (not). But, Cooper wasn’t having any of it and added another nose-print-trophy to the hood of the patrol car. Yep, slammed the guy onto the hood (that’s a favorite tool and trick). It’s easier to cuff someone who’s resisting when you’re able to hold them against something, such as a car, on the ground, against the side of a building. It also prevents the guy from turning around, a move that would allow him the chance to take a swing at the officer. So, no, cops aren’t trying to hurt the suspect by pushing him down onto the car hood. Instead, the car, etc. is simply used as a tool to help safely effect the arrest. Now you know why all the tiny, round dents on the hoods of many police car. And you thought it hail damage!
Sammy and Ben also have their share of calls—a female murder victim for starters. But they see an assault taking place and jump out to chase the suspect. During the chase, Sammy loses sight of Ben in an alley, but hears a noise coming from behind a dumpster. He draws his weapon and suddenly there’s movement. And that something comes toward him. The attacker? BANG! Sammy shoots. But it’s not the attacker. It’s a large dog, and Sammy feels terrible. He removes his t-shirt to apply pressure to the animal’s gunshot wound. The dog is taken to the vet where Sammy agrees to pay for life-saving surgery. He also plans to adopt the dog.
Needless to say, Sammy takes a lot of teasing from his co-workers, including the always comical Dewey who passed by Sammy while making barking sounds. And Ben’s Scooby imitation…Rerry Runny, rusn’t it Rammy?
Ben and Sammy are on patrol when they see two kids, gang members, so they roll up and jump out. The kids run. Don’t these people know they can’t outrun Sammy and Ben? Anyway, this was a favorite tactic of mine. When they run you chase. Why do they run? Because they’re wanted or because they’re holding something illegal, like drugs or guns. So we chase. We catch them. And we arrest them for possession. Had they not run, well, there’d have been no real reason to search them. So…as usual, dumb crooks.
The duo, Ben and Sammy, are summoned to a building where a woman says someone inside has a knife and is going to kill someone else. So, again, they run inside.
Okay, this is where you need to use a little bit of slow motion because I’m going to point out something that’s sort of interesting. A mini workshop.
During the yelling and screaming (“Put down the knife!”), Ben sees the body of a young girl floating in the water. He runs to the edge of the pool, stripping his gun belt on the way, and dives in to save the girl (reminds me of the water rescue training at the Virginia State Police Academy where cadets had to “rescue” a cinder block from the bottom of the pool).
All right, back to the lesson. Pencils and notebooks handy?
If you’ve read my book on police procedure (page 44) you know that officers wear “belt keepers,” thin straps that circle around the gun belt attaching it to the regular belt that everyone wears to hold up their pants. Without the keepers the gun belt would/could simply fall to the ground, especially when the officer is running or doing anything else that involves moving. Therefore, officers normally utilize at least four keepers, two somewhere on the front and two on the back.
Belt keepers positioned between the two handcuff pouches
Well, you can clearly see that Ben has keepers on when he enters the building, but as he strips the gun belt before diving into the pool, guess what? Yep…no keepers. There’s no way he could drop the belt that quickly had the keepers been snapped into place in their normal position. However, it would have slowed the action had he stopped to unsnap the four keepers and then unhook the buckle in front. But, officers are able to do this rather quickly in real life. Don’t believe it? Try it after eating a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast at 4am and see how quickly your gun belt comes off at 5am…
But, Ben rescues the girl, performs CPR and she lives. Sure, I said that as if the act were no big deal and you know why? Because this sort of thing does indeed happen every single day. I’ve done it and so have many other officers. In fact, I once performed CPR on a drug overdose victim, and forever after I was on the receiving end of Dewey-like teasing about locking lips with the unconscious, unresponsive guy. And he lived.
Actually, the man lived long enough for me to respond to a drunk and disorderly call a few months later where he was the drunk who, in fact, became more disorderly when he recognized me. Unfortunately for me, he, too, was a practical joker and planted a big wet kiss right on my lips just as I was about to snap on the cuffs. And I’ve never heard the end of that one to this day. However, unfortunately for the suspect, he died of a drug overdose a few weeks after “the kiss.” I wasn’t around that time for a second attempt at CPR.
Back to Lydia. She’s troubled about how the pregnancy will affect her job. She’s worried about being a mother. She’s worried that abortion may be the only answer to her troubles. And she’s worried about the girl who sliced her arm with a knife. She’s also worried about the girl’s mother who confessed to killing the man her daughter murdered. Lydia knows the mother confessed to protect her child. And Lydia finds peace with knowing that’s what being a mother is all about, doing whatever it takes to protect your child.
Yes, this episode was all about being a real cop. What they face each and every day. Call after call. Horror after horror. Pain, both physical and emotional. In uniform and out.
You know, there’s a reason why Regina King (Lydia) is an award-winning actor. And this show is part of that reason. She’s believable. I believe what she’s telling me and I believe her emotions. I believe her character cares for the suspects and victims on this show. I believe King because I’ve lived that life, and what she’s portraying is that life. And that’s what each of the Southland actors do. They make us believe.
What more could we ask of a TV show?
And they, as Tang said, “Never leave anyone behind.”
*Photos by TNT Television