TAUNTON — An officer with the Taunton Police Department, who also was an integral part of the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (SEMLEC), passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 49 after battling COVID-19.

According to a press release from SEMLEC, Officer John Borges was one of the founding members of the SEMLEC Search and Rescue Unit in 2003.

Somerset Police Chief George McNeil, the control chief and head of the SEMLEC SAR, called Borges 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 a 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."

Borges 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).

In the release, 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 southeastern 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."

The release also states that according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, nearly 180 police officers have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. this year.

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