After 34 years with the Ceres Police Department, Deputy Chief Mike Borges has begun his countdown to retirement.
Transitioning from a military police position in the Army, Borges, 57, started his Ceres career as a patrol officer in 1980. He worked his way up through the ranks, supervising nearly every unit from patrol and detectives to the SWAT team and the Explorers program as a sergeant, conducting internal affairs investigations and eventually becoming well-known for his “penny pinching” skills as a commander and deputy chief.
Colleagues describe him as goofy and boisterous but in the same breath say he’s straitlaced and stern, with high expectations.
Borges was in charge of the Explorer program when now-Lt. Rick Collins began his career in Ceres. “He’d give this spiel about the expectations of Explorers, what we should be doing, what we shouldn't be doing, how we represent the agency after about the third (time), I could recite his speech verbatim,” he said.
And Collins said he was called upon to do so in front of the other Explorers when Borges caught him mimicking the speech.
Borges said one of the highlights of his career was the 10 years overseeing the Explorers program and watching the cadets grow up, become sworn officers and excel in their own law enforcement careers.
His paternal disposition earned him the nickname “Dad” by many in the department.
“He’s not deputy chief, he wasn’t Sarge, he’s Dad,” said Officer Greg Yotsuya. “With some of the sergeants, you respected them, but with Mike, you didn’t want to disappoint him.”
Every good father knows how to effectively discipline.
Many in the department said it was Borges they wanted to handle their case if ever they became the subject of an internal affairs investigation. “He wasn’t going to be swayed one way or the other,” Collins said. “If you stepped out (of line), you were going to deal with that, but if he’d find the allegations were false, he would protect you as well.”
A penny pincher
Education and training always were highly encouraged by Borges, and he is fanatical about the department’s budget, his colleagues said. “Mike is a bean counter, a penny pincher,” Sgt. Rob Robbins said. “ He acts like the city’s money is his money, and nothing moves without his signature.”
Borges was Robbins’ first field training officer and the only one who would give him weekly quizzes on the penal code. “Every week, we’d park at a gas station at 2 a.m. and he’d pop-quiz me,” he said.
Robbins’ first night on patrol with Borges is one he’ll never forget. Responding to a report of a suicidal person, Borges and Robbins found the man on the pay phone, still talking to dispatchers. As they approached, the two saw the barrel of an assault rifle protruding from the collar of the man’s shirt. Borges pounced on the man, grabbing his gun and taking it away before he ever noticed the officers behind him.
“My running joke for the past 25 years has been that my first night here, Mike Borges tried to get me killed,” Robbins said.
Much has changed since they both started in the 1980s.
Most notably, Borges said Miranda rights when he started had to be read to anyone who was the subject of an investigation, but now are required only if a person is in custody and being asked incriminating questions.
He said while the Peace Officers Bill of Rights was enacted to protect the liberties of officers, recent legislation is extreme and can hinder a department’s ability to perform internal investigations. “If we are going to be able to keep the public’s trust, we have to police our own, and sometimes some of the legislation makes it difficult for us to actually do that,” he said.
In the same vein, he said, more and more people are filing bogus reports against police officers in an effort to “dirty up” their records and discredit them in court.
A positive change, Borges said, is the improvement in technology that allows officers to instantly disseminate information to one another or neighboring agencies.
“One of the things that hasn’t changed is you still have a lot of young people get into this job for the right reasons,” he said. “It’s kind of corny, but it’s a philosophy that I believe in and the majority of the people that work here believe in – that we are actually that thin line between good and evil.”
‘Why I do this job’
Borges said his years in law enforcement have had their ups and downs. Arrests and successful prosecutions of child predators were great victories. He said he was most in his element when working crimes against children.
He keeps a letter he received from a woman in 2005 who thanked him for his interaction with her and her father during a domestic violence call many years before. It was just one of many calls, but he said it’s evidence of the impact an officer can make when he does his job right.
“Whenever I get depressed with everything that is going on, I go back and read this letter and go, ‘OK, that’s why I do this job,’ ” he said.
Since the time he started his career, Borges has lived in Ceres. He said there are many advantages of living in the town in which he works. He’s very involved in coaching and volunteering for youth sports teams and has been a member of the Lions Club for 10 years. He has a good understanding of the needs of the community and in his position as deputy chief can direct resources to address many of those issues.
But living in town has had its drawbacks, Borges said, like being confronted by people he’d arrested while at the grocery store with his family on his day off. “I’ve also had people wind up bleeding, knocking on my door, looking for help because they know that I am the cop in the neighborhood,” he said.
After his last day, March 14, Borges said he plans to take time with his family; he has three grown sons, five grandchildren and a sixth on the way. He also plans to travel to Australia with his wife and another couple.
But Borges said he likely will stay on as a reserve, helping with background checks and other officer work. “I can’t just cut ties,” Borges said of the department. “This is my family, too.”
Chief Art de Werk said he will likely decide in the next few weeks who will replace Borges.
“While he had a lot of professional pride, he wasn’t driven by ego,” de Werk said “It’s going to be hard to replace the institutional memory that he has, but also that community commitment. Certainly there are people who can do the job, but it will take them some time to fill those shoes.”