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Dennis Farina, Actor and Former Chicago Cop, Dies at 69

By DNAinfo Staff on July 22, 2013 12:58pm  | Updated on July 22, 2013 4:56pm

 Dennis Farina, known for his roles a police officer — as an actor and in real life — died Monday at age 69 in Scottsdale, Ariz., his publicist told numerous news outlets.
Dennis Farina Dies at Age 69
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CHICAGO — Dennis Farina, known for his roles a police officer — as an actor and in real life — died Monday at age 69 in Scottsdale, Ariz., his publicist told numerous news outlets.

Born to a Sicilian-American family in Chicago, Farina sent 18 years as an officer in the city's police department between 1967-1985.

"After an 18-year career in the Chicago Police Department, Dennis had a wonderful second act in life, bringing his distinctive Chicago voice and values to millions of people," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy in a statement.

"No matter how far he got, Dennis never forgot where he came from, and while he was cherished by audiences around the world, he will always be first and foremost a guy from the Near North Side who helped make this city safer," the city's top cop added.

His roles on television and in the movies rarely strayed from the subject of crime.

Among his most notable roles was as Chicago mob boss Jimmy Serrano in the 1988 film "Midnight Run," mobster Ray "Bones" Barboni in 1995's "Get Shorty" and Detective Joe Fontana on NBC's "Law and Order."

In a September 2011 issue of Venice Magazine, Farina said he grew up in "the old neighborhood" now termed Near North Side. "If you met someone from Chicago who asked where you're from and you said 'The old neighborhood,' my neighborhood is the one you'd be talking about," he said.

He grew up in a family of lawyers, though his father was a doctor and his uncle was a police officer, according to the Venice interview.

"He was obviously a good representation of the Chicago Police Department," said Pat Camden, spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police.

As a police officer, Farina was on duty during the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, according to the interview. "From my point of view, as a guy who was there, it was we have to go there and do what we have to do, and then go home when we're done. It's kind of like the way a soldier would look at things,"  he told the magazine.

He worked the burglary unit on the North Side with Chuck Adamson, who would later become a screenwriter. 

In 1981, he served as a police consultant in Michael Mann's directorial debut, the 1981 film "Thief." Farina had a small role in the film, his first in a long acting career.

After that film, Farina started meeting people associated with Steppenwolf Theater.

In 1985, Farina had a role in the cult crime film "Code of Silence" starring Chuck Norris. The film took place in Chicago and Farina played a cop.

Though he often played a cop as an actor, he said having experience as a real officer was not always a help.

"In fact, it gets in the way sometimes," he said. Mann once told him, he said, "we're in the business of entertainment, not reality."

"You can't let reality seep into what you're doing as entertainment," Farina said.

Farina is among one of the most prominent supporters of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, Camden said.