Greg Dankers and Diamantino Araujo are two of the police officers featured on the new TNT reality show “Boston’s Finest,” which follows Boston police on the job.
Members of the Boston Police Department’s fugitive task force and gang unit, respectively, say that while they were reluctant to do the show at first, they’re now comfortable on camera and hope the series shows a side of a big city police department that doesn’t always translate on TV: “the human side,” Araujo says.
Both men are married with two children. Dankers, 42 and a US Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, has 4-year-old twins with his wife, Nancy — also a Boston police officer, whom he met while working patrol in West Roxbury six years ago.
Araujo, 33 and a native of Cape Verde, moved to the United States when he was young. He grew up in Roxbury and is now partnered in the gang unit with his childhood best friend, Officer Manny Canuto. His inspiration to become a policeman? Watching “Miami Vice” reruns when he was a kid.
“We live in the city. We love the city. We are each one of the people in the city,” says Araujo, a seven-year member of the Boston Police Department. “A lot of people can be intimidated by police. The cameras captured us doing things you don’t always see from the police, like walking the streets, talking to shop owners, playing basketball with the kids, just making ourselves accessible. This is all stuff we do anyway, but maybe now people will see it and see us in a broader light.”
While “Boston’s Finest” certainly isn’t the first reality show about law enforcement, it aims to give viewers a look at the entire police department, including patrol officers, detectives, SWAT team members, and special task force officers. That stands in contrast to such other law-enforcement reality shows as A&E’s “The First 48,” which focuses on homicide investigations, and Spike TV’s “DEA,” which focuses on drug cases.
“There really are a lot of shows out there, so this isn’t a completely new thing,” says Dankers, a 14-year Boston Police Department veteran, who has been in the fugitive unit since 2010. “Still, in the beginning it’s ingrained in us to be suspicious. You don’t know what the true intentions are of the film crew. You don’t know how things are going to be perceived. But I have to say, the camera people were cool. They put us at ease. And after a while, we got to know them and understand them, too.”
Araujo agrees. “You kind of filter things until you’re sure about the people following you around with the cameras,” he says. “But once that trust is established, you almost forget the cameras are there.”
Inevitably, Dankers says, once they relaxed and just concentrated on doing their jobs, rather than how they were perceived, “real life” happened.
“That’s the funny thing about this kind of job. You don’t have to make stuff up,” he says. “The craziness comes to you.”
One afternoon with the cameras rolling, Dankers was sitting in plainclothes in a car surveilling a house, when a guy left the house and approached the car.
“He just walks up, knocks on the window and then starts asking if we want to buy bootleg CDs and DVDs,” Dankers says.
All laughs aside, both men say they’re grateful to be on television — Araujo for the broader perspective it gives of the police and their work, and Dankers for his kids.
“A lot of people have asked why we would want to do this show,” he says. “One of my biggest reasons is that I can’t bring my kids to work. My job is too dangerous. I can’t bring friends or family, either. So this is a way to create a record for my kids to see what their dad does. And maybe it will inspire them to try to be good people when they’re older.”James H. Burnett III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.