Two of ‘Boston’s Finest’ Give Inside Scoop on the Show

Skye Robinson, left, of the Youth Violence Strike Force Unit, and Ryan Mason, of the Fugitive Unit, of the Boston Police Department. Both participated in being followed by 'Boston's Finest' cameras.

Two of the Boston Police Department officers featured on TNT’s “Boston’s Finest” reality show executive produced by Donnie Wahlberg spoke about having cameras following them, being on television, charity work and the New Kids on the Block. Ryan Mason, 34, from West Roxbury, and Skye Robinson, 32, from Roxbury, met up with Patch at Boston Police Headquarters at the same time. 

Patch: What unit are you in?

Mason: Fugitive Unit – citywide. I started in BPD in 2005, and started in the Fugitive Unit in 2010, before that I was in District 4 and B-3.

Robinson: I’m in the Youth Violence Strike Force. On the show it’s referred to as the gang unit. I started on BPD in 2006 in C-11 (Dorchester), and started in 2010 with the Youth Violence unit.

Patch: Were you given a choice to be on the show?


Mason: That’s a good question. We were. We weren’t completely forced into doing it. I saw it as a good opportunity to promote the two non-profits I’m involved with – Parkway in Motion, and Cops for Kids with Cancer. And TNT and Donnie (Wahlberg) have said they will include the charity work in upcoming episodes.

Robinson: Yes, I was. I chose to be in it with limitations. I didn’t mind if they’re filming at work. I didn’t feel comfortable with them coming into my personal life.

Patch: Why did you want to be on the show?

Mason: I think our department and officers we work with across the city is one of the most philanthropical group of people i’ve seen. As much bad as we’ve seen, we see a lot of good. I don’t think there is a profession that takes care of the community more than we do on the job and outside the job.

Patch: Has the show affected the way you do your job?

Mason: No. People do recognize us now. But it hasn’t affected us. We’re still doing things the way we did. You do get recognized by some people in the city due to large amount of advertising done.

Robinson: No, not at all. I think what the show has done has made people a little more comfortbale in speaking with you. They see you and say “Hey, Boston’s finest!” No, I just deny, “No, that’s not me.” People we are stopping for police business, the first thing is “Oh, am I going to be on ‘Boston’s Finest?'” or “I can’t believe you’re on ‘Boston’s Finest.'”

Mason: The day after the premiere a woman answered the door while I was serving a warrant (for her son) and asked where the cameras are… 

Patch: What’s it like having cameras following you?

Mason: It wasn’t that bad because the way we’re trained in our generation is you have a camera on you all the time. You have to expect someone has a cellphone recording everthing you’re doing. We don’t do things behind the shadows. It’s just a little different having someone ride around in your car.

Robinson: It was weird, the first thing you’re worried about is if the people police are dealing with are going to escalate because of cameras behind you. You’re kind of worried about their reaction to cameras. I wasn’t too worried about me, because we would do what we do with or without cameras… Also the cameras make some (people) want to have a conversation with you.

Patch: [To Robinson] They asked you to wear make up?

Robinson: They did ask me that. I’ve never worn makeup to work. I don’t even wear jewelry.

Patch: Do the people you’re working with, residents, suspects, etc., act differently with a camera there?

Mason: They definitely react to when they see the cameras either at their house or on the streets… There were people who were told they were on camera and they elevated their personality. 

[People appearing on the show sign appearance release forms]

Patch: How do you choose what to share about your life on the show? Do producers suggest topics?

Mason: They do. But they still give you some sort of discretion of what not to put on the show of your own personal life. But in terms of work they have full access to what you’re doing with work. There are investigations that we would not let them know how we would perform that investigation.

We get a lot of questions of people “How did you find me?” We would not disclose to the show, like we don’t to the fugitive, how you found them.

Robinson: It was asked if they could follow me home, I told them I didn’t feel comfortable with that and I wanted my private life to stay private. They were very good with that and didn’t push it or anything.

Patch: Did you have interaction with Donnie Wahlberg? 

Mason: Yes. He called me a couple times to talk about one of the kids referred to me from Cops for Kids with Cancer with tumors on his brain, Donnie called me to talk about the show, I impressed upon him to put Gavin McCarthy (only 6-years-old) on the show, to use him as a vehicle to promote Cops for Kids with Cancer. It’s one of the most popular charities for the Boston Police Department and the area and we’re hoping it’s picked up around the county and that other cops help kids with cancer like Gavin.

Robinson: A couple times (Wahlberg) came to the base to the gang unit and sat down and explained how the show was going to go and explained his view of the show.

Patch: Did you ask about him New Kids on The Block?

Skye: I did. I was a big fan as a kid! I had the Trapper Keeper. I had the lunchbox. He thought it was hilarious.

Ryan: I don’t know who that is.

Patch: Do you get paid extra for being on the show?

Mason: No. We didn’t get paid at all. All voluntary.

Patch: How much did they follow you?

Mason: They started with us in August. About two months in they changed the crew and went with a different angle. Originally you had a camera behind you in the car, and it was like “Cops”…. A second crew came in and did it a different way. Back to square one for them. We were told they’d only be with you for a short period of time. It kept elongating to a month, to two months, to three months – I still think they’re around.

Patch: How much time did they spend with you?

Mason: (Sporadically from) August until Thanksgiving.

Patch: Are you making sure you’re looking better than you normally would because you’re on TV?

Mason: No. It’s whatever you wear to work. We didn’t change any of our habits. Everything you see on the show is how we operate without the cameras there.

Patch: Anything else?

Mason: I think what the show shows and is important to us – it is the pride of the professionalism we have in the department. In all the units, from our unit to the gang unit. There’s a lot of teamwork involved. That was very important to us to show how much of a team effort it is with all the divisions and units and how we collectively keep crime down and we work closely with the community. The show might try to portray people as individuals, but that’s not how we operate. We operate in a team atmosphere.

Robinson: Basically, Ryan hit it on the head. I’m glad the show was filmed here. You get to see what we do and see the camaraderie with the other officers and how officers give to the community itself.

South End Patch