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Character Development: Ben Sherman’s Bad Day, Southland “Discretion” 

Photo credit: TNT

Officer Ben Sherman learns his mother’s rapist is out on bail, he makes a bad judgement call on a case and it gets someone shot, and his partner looses confidence in him. Just another (bad) day at the office.

Ben Sherman is a good son and has an overriding need to see justice done. We all know he became a cop because he couldn’t protect his mother when she was raped. In “Discretion” we learn Ben walked in on the assault as it was happening and tried to defend his mother. He was attacked himself in the process. Now that his mother’s attacker is out, Ben takes it upon himself to track him down and issue a warning. He thinks he’s doing the right thing – defending his mother’s honor in the only way he can. Not only is Ben crossing a line but he’s a bit rough about it and David reports him. His CO warns Ben that letting his emotions run his life will end up in a short and difficult career at the LAPD. Even though Ben seems to hear him, he takes his frustration out on a perp later. It takes three cops to haul him off their suspect.

Later he’s staking out David’s apartment when his mother comes looking for him. She tells her son she’s trying to forgive David, for her own sake. We also learn that she and Ben’s father were into some illegal things when they were together. Not only did she know David, but she let him into the house thinking she could handle him. Ben’s father was in debt and she thought she could take care of it. Seeing Ben break down was so heartbreaking. But even more heartbreaking is realizing your parents aren’t who you think they are. I think that day comes in every child’s life someday – sometimes it’s early in life when a parent lets you down, sometimes it late in life when you learn one of their secrets. But learning your parents are human is a tough pill to swallow, particularly for Ben in this situation.

Another unfortunate surprise comes at the end of another case they’re working. During a raid on a crack house, John and Ben apprehend a guy who was looking to score. John uses his discretion to issue a warning and lets him go. For a moment I think John has grown a heart but he soon shows his true colors – it would take four hours to process the guy and he’s just not interested in that. I still think he did the right thing just not for the right reasons. When Ben and John respond later to a burglary call, Ben uses his discretion with the owner of the restaurant. The place has been robbed repeatedly and the owner bought an illegal gun to defend himself. Ben tells him to get a legal gun immediately but to keep the other gun for protection in the meantime. Ben promises he’ll be back in two weeks and if the restaurant owner still has the gun, he’ll be arrested. When they end up back at the business at the end of the day, the guy has shot someone. And to make it worse they have to arrest him for having an illegal gun. Again, Ben thought he was doing the right thing. John is really disappointed in Ben. He thought he was finally showing some natural instincts on the job and was proud of how Ben was progressing. But John warns Ben he won’t risk his pension for Ben if he keeps acting this way.

I usually see Ben as the quiet guy who does the right thing. Not only does he want to believe the best in people, but I think that naïveté makes him a great cop. To see him mired down like this makes me feel for him. And to see him take his frustration out on someone so violently makes me fear for him. I don’t want to see Ben’s career hindered by his explosive temper. I absolutely understand why he did what he did; I just can’t condone it. One thing I think it clear is that he needs to get it out. I hope he’s not too proud to either talk to a friend or a professional about this.

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