Southland: Identity

“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

  1. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Kirk – Thanks for stopping by to share the trivia. Interesting to say the least. You played a very realistic part, by the way. In fact, I was sure I’d arrested you a few times during my career.

    Your character generated several off-blog questions, including readers/viewers inquiring about some of your other work, such as this message (below). If you’d like to contact the fan I’d be happy to provide the contact information. I’m sure he/she’d love to hear from you. Again, thanks for stopping by, and please do so again. We love the behind-the-scenes information.

    Hi Lee,

    I just found your wedsite looking for info on Southland. I really enjoyed reading the reviews. I was trying to find out who the actor was who played the homeless ex-Marine on Southland last night? I’ve seen him before, but can’t recall his name.

    Thanks,

    J.A.

  2. Kirk
    Kirk says:

    A little Southland trivia from actor that played Crazy Bob scene in Identity episode, we improvised all of the ending of that scene. I started ranting random stuff, apple pie, soft hands, he can see me, etc and Michael and Lucy just followed. Plus the people you see taking pictures on the street corner were real tourists, not extras. We shot that scene at Hollywood and Vine.

  3. Paul K
    Paul K says:

    Glad someone else caught how quickly Ben got his belt off jumping into that pool. Granted keepers can come off fairly quickly (esp. when an unforeseen bowel movement is on its way out) but that was way too quick.

  4. Mike Kelly
    Mike Kelly says:

    Dave-

    Actually, sad as it is, that happens quite a bit. It may not be that open, and in public, but it goes on quite a bit behind “closed” doors. Just as in any customer service job, it’s to blow off steam. Cops, firefighters, and paramedics often get in trouble for making jokes that others find offensive, or in poor taste.. But in reality, it’s the sense of humor one gets when working this job.

    Mack-

    Most of the officers around here wear boots. Duty boots that you can find anywhere. I, in my security job, soon to be LE job (hopefully) wear those. They’re good quality, and provide protection against many things, water, cold, suspect’s feet… AS well as most provide BBP protection too, which is almost mandatory in these fields.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Or, as a deputy sheriff working the 6th graveyard in a row after sitting in court for most of the day, which, by the way, means you simply cannot hold you eyes open any longer. So you drive home and park in your driveway, thinking you’ll be safe, won’t run off the road, and you can “rest your tired eyes” for just a moment. After all, it’s still dark. No one would know. BUT, when you open your eyes after that “eyes-closed-moment” the sun is high in the sky and your neighbor is mowing his lawn beside your car.

    Not that that ever happened to me…

  6. Ron DeLaby
    Ron DeLaby says:

    Lee – My favorite was, “sleep lines”. That phenomenon when while writing a report at 0 dark thirty you fall asleep and your pen draws a line all the way down the page for you, causing you to have to rewrite the whole thing all over again. Sigh. Great times, huh?

  7. Dave Fowler
    Dave Fowler says:

    The funniest (if most gruesome scene) was Cooper (LAPD) jostling with the two LASD deputies, on the other side of the railroad tracks (and jurisdictions) over who got to deal with the splattered remains of the train victim, based on which agency’s territory had the most/largest pieces.

    Overall, wasn’t my favorite episode of the year, but still a good one.

  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Thanks for catching the typo, corino. I had the character name embedded in my brain. I’ve made the changes.

    Ron, we once got on a kick of seeing who could get the best shine on their shoes. But I quickly lost interest and concentrated on staying awake on midnight shifts.

  9. Ron DeLaby
    Ron DeLaby says:

    No worries, mate. Leave it to me to break the punch bowl every time.

    Also, about shoes. There are now black shoes that work pretty well as uniform dress and still allow officers to run a good foot chase. I can remember my entire team spit polishing their shoes before getting ready for roll call. Of course the first drunk you arrested stepped on that nice high gloss polish, that is unless you managed to scrape it off on the brake pedal first. Once Corfam came along there was no further need to polish one’s shoes, but the scratches were pretty much permanent.

    Maka, I see what you’re saying now about not turning on the overheads and using the flashlight instead. Lee’s right on the money with that. It’s the angle of light rather than the overhead wash out effect.

  10. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Ron, unfortunately I did indeed share those stomach contents and it was all I coud do to maintain control. I didn’t mention it because, well because. But, since you broke the ice…

    Maka – Always turn on the lights unless there’s a risk of explosion. However, we still use flashlights even in bright light. The angle of the extra light sometimes shows things you wouldn’t normally see, including fingerprints and blood.

  11. Maka
    Maka says:

    Rather, I’m talking about using the flashlights instead of turning on the room lights. Is there a reason behind doing that?

  12. Ron DeLaby
    Ron DeLaby says:

    Maka – The seaching is what SHOULD be done, even though it doesn’t always happen. You never know what might turn out to be valuable evidence, but cops, like anyone else, can get lazy and complacent. As it turned out he found a bloody blouse that pretty much cinched the case.

    Lee, more often than not during a CPR event the vic would share the contents of his/her stomach with the rescuer. I was always fortunate enough to have a junior officer on the scene and would just declare, “I’ll take the chest (compressions).”

    Also, LAPD, like CHP, had an absolute mindset about wearing those hats. It was serious stuff to be caught out of the car without. We tried them for awhile and gave it up as a bad idea. They serve NO useful purpose and are expensive to replace since they are the first thing to go in a fight.

    Still impressed with the techincal advice for this program. So far they’re pretty much as close to real as it gets.

  13. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Sara – yeah, that was a little out of character for the show, but the points they were making really drove home the message that cops are truly a close-knit group/family that cares deeply for one another. They feel that connection because cops are a bit afraid of getting close to people outside the badge, so they stick together, and they try to say the right things when the right things need saying. At other times, though, they spout of Dewey-type stuff.

  14. SaraK
    SaraK says:

    Regina King was absolutely amazing. Although I had a slight beef with this episode. It was a little too “Grey’s Anatomy”; where the external characters mirror the inner struggles that the principal characters are going through, and they manage to say just the right thing to the leads.

  15. Maka
    Maka says:

    Hey, great site, and thanks for all of your reviews (been following since the beginning).

    Just curious. In that scene right before Ruben loses the daughter, where he is searching underneath the mattress and through the laundry basket with his flashlight. Is this a common practice among detectives? If so, what would be the reasoning behind that?

    I’ve also seen it done on shows like CSI, but shows like CSI aren’t all that reliable when it comes to real life practices.

  16. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I, for one, am glad the hat tradition has mostly disappeared. I absolutely hated wearing it, especially the bus-driver-looking hat. I didn’t mind the campaign hat too much (most often associated with state police and sheriff’s office), but I sure despised the other one.

  17. David Fowler
    David Fowler says:

    Interesting that when you watch LAPD cop shows of 1970s vintage, they always wore their hats (initially the 8-point type, then later on round). Now, they never do, except on formal occasions. We rarely wore them in my old department, and the local constabulary here only wears ball caps.

  18. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    This varies with each department, and yes, some do allow black running shoes. However, I remember back in the day when we did the same amount of running while wearing shiny, black (brown when I was with the sheriff’s office) hard-soled dress shoes. Oh, and let’s don’t forget the hat and tie. Those items were mandated. A tie whenever we wore a long-sleeve shirt, and a hat at all times whenever we were outside. No exceptions. What a pain the rear that was.

  19. Mack
    Mack says:

    Lee,
    What kind of shoes do police officers wear? I was thinking about this with all the running I saw last night. Can they wear any athletic shoe as long as it’s black? Is there an official cop shoe?