TAUNTON — The Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (SEMLEC) joins the entire emergency responder community in mourning the death of Taunton Police Officer John Borges, who died Dec. 24 at age 49 after battling COVID-19.
Somerset Police Chief George McNeil, the control chief and head of the SEMLEC Search and Rescue Unit (SAR) recalled Officer Borges as the “glue” that held the team together and one of the region’s preeminent experts on search techniques.
“Officer Borges worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, and when there was an active search for missing person, he would regularly stay past his shift and continue to work, on his own time. He didn’t even put in for overtime,” Chief McNeil said. “I have been a police officer for 34 years, and I learned new things every time I worked with Officer Borges. He was excellent at his job — the job of finding lost people.”
Officer Borges was one of the founding members of SEMLEC SAR in 2003 and remained on the team through multiple control chiefs and leadership charges in Southern Massachusetts. He possessed a wealth of knowledge on missing persons cases. He was a search and rescue instructor who trained other first responders in the region, including state officials and first responders around the nation. He was also an expert and instruction in Incident Command Systems (ICS).
Chief McNeil recalled a case from 2009 in which a man went missing during a particularly cold night. There was a language barrier with the man’s family, as they only spoke Portuguese. Officer Borges was fluent in Portuguese and was able to bridge the communications gap with the family, an essential task that helped lead rescuers in the right direction. They found the man and reunited him with his family.
“We were involved in many searches together, and when SEMLEC deployed for a search and rescue mission, the people of South Eastern Massachusetts could count on Officer Borges to be there, coordinating the effort to find a loved one,” Chief McNeil said. “He made our communities safer.”
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, nearly 180 police officers have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. this year. These are people who cannot abide by stay at home advisories and cannot always be socially distant.
SEMLEC is a mutual aid consortium comprised of resources from the police departments of 30 cities and towns. We respond when requested by a chief of police to assist with search and rescue, special events, or major crimes. We also draw on some of the most talented police officers in the region to form the SEMLEC SWAT Team, which deploys when needed to save lives and protect the citizens of southeastern Massachusetts. Members are all sworn police officers from one of the 30 member communities. Our units respond only when called by one of the 30 chiefs of police in our region.