Mike Borges nearly chose a career path as a chef. Instead, he opted for a law enforcement career that took him to one notch below the top rung of the Ceres Police Department ladder.
That career ends on Friday.
Borges, now the 57-year-old deputy police chief, said it's time to move on after nearly 34 years of protecting Ceres. Besides age, factoring into his decision is his frustration with state lawmakers who make it harder for law enforcement, coupled with the stress of trying to craft budgets.
"It's worrying about trying to make ends meet, per se," said Borges, "ensuring we have the right people, dealing with a population that at times doesn't want to accept responsibility for their own actions, and in the same token trying to take corrective measures for people who are doing things they shouldn't be doing and ensuring the community has the right people doing this job."
Borges says he will miss the family at CPD most.
"I'm probably the oldest one here, other than the chief and maybe Art Hively, one of the detectives," said Borges. "A lot of these guys refer to me as ‘Dad' and I don't have a problem with that. It's kind of hard to cut ties with a bunch of guys that ... some of these guys I have known for 20 years or more."
After graduating at age 17 from Modesto High School in 1974, Borges wanted to join the Marines but his mother wouldn't sign for him. He found work at Frank's on Orangeburg Avenue in Modesto learning how to be a restaurant cook. After a while he wanted to become a military policeman, he decided to join the Army.
"I wanted something that had a different challenge each day and found out, like regular law enforcement, you don't know what you're going to get each day you go to work."
He worked as an MP at Fort Benning, Ga., for nearly four years. He assisted Secret Service in security for President Carter during his Christmas vacation. Borges was assigned to watch a closed hangar intended for Air Force One. Being in the South gave the Portuguese-born Borges his first taste of racial tensions - something he didn't quite understand coming from an integrated school system. Borges also remembers breaking up plenty of fights started when members of the 82nd Airborne Division dropped in for training.
Borges returned home in November 1979 to work a short time as a security guard at the Rich plant in Modesto. Ceres had an opening for a police officer and he applied. He passed all tests and background checks and was sent to the Police Academy. Hired by Chief Leroy Cunningham, Borges started April 14, 1980 and trained under Officer Jeff Genest.
Work as a patrolman proved to be different from day to day, but he also learned its dangers. A close brush with death came on Jan. 3, 1981 when Borges responded to a report of a man who physically beat his grandmother on Hemlock Avenue west of the freeway. The suspect was under the influence of PCP. Borges and Officer John Robinson responded. Crazed on drugs and brutally strong, the suspect and Borges had a stare down from about 25 feet apart. The man then charged at Borges, knocking him to the ground where they wrestled. Borges' gun fell out of the holster and the suspect grabbed it and held the barrel into Borges' ribs. Robinson joined in wrestling the suspect and finally broke the suspect's grip. The suspect continued to hold onto Borges with a leg wrap. Both officers beat the suspect until he was stunned enough to be handcuffed.
"Ultimately we found out that we broke his wrist, broke his ankle and put about 10 stitches in the back of his head," said Borges.
Another "interesting" time was keeping an eye on KKK rallies staged in Whitmore Park in the 1980s by "imperial wizard" Bill Albers. On one occasion Borges watched from the rooftop of the police department across the street. No trouble occurred at the rally, which was permitted as an exercise of free speech.
As a detective, Borges helped send Robert Allen Hogue to state prison in 1987 for kidnapping a young Ceres girl on the way to school, raping her and threatening her with a sawed-off shotgun. Hogue had posed as a truant officer to lure the girl into his vehicle. His arrest came quite by accident. Hogue had been in a fight at the gas station at Herndon and Hatch when a detective noticed that he resembled a police sketch of the kidnapping suspect.
"During the trial we got information that he was threatening to kill me and my family and the D.A. and the D.A. handling the case was Jim Brazelton."
Borges' son, who works for Deuel Vocational Institute in Tracy, had a brush with Hogue who was incarcerated there.
"Hogue saw him and asked him ‘How's your dad doing?' My son had to report the contact and they immediately moved Hogue out of there."
Borges' career was served under only three chiefs.
"Each one has played a significant role in my career," said Borges.
Chief Pete Peterson promoted him to patrol sergeant in 1988.
"Here, our sergeants after 5 o'clock at night are the chief of police per se. Weekends, holidays, that sergeant, that watch commander, they're making those decisions for administration unless they get really hairy, then they make the call and additional resources come in. They oversee patrol and dispatch and they have a responsibility."
Borges has held virtually every job within the agency. He served as a detective from 1984 to 1987. Corporal and field training officer status in 1987 and 1988, patrol sergeant in 1988 to 1998, detective sergeant from 1999 to 2003, and patrol sergeant 2003 to August 2005. He was named by Deputy Police Chief in August 2005 by Chief Art deWerk. When the city suffered budgetary hard times that resulted in department head layoffs, Borges was assigned as the city's Human Resources Manager from August 2009 to August 2011.
"One that I enjoyed the most was running the explorer program for 10 years," said Borges. He was able to mentor teens in the program, many of which have moved onto successful careers. He mentored Adam McGill who is now police chief of Truckee. Others have become captains and lieutenants. Ceres Police Lt. Rick Collins started out as a police explorer under Borges.
"I loved being a patrol sergeant, particularly on graveyards."
Running the SWAT team was challenging and fun, too.
The darkest event of his career was the killing of Sgt. Howard Stevenson on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2005.
"He was my right hand and I drew a lot from him in running the SWAT team," commented Borges. "We were both patrol sergeants on separate squads and we happened to be working the same shifts but different days off. That Sunday was his first day back. That Saturday was my Friday. And if this would have happened a day sooner, that would have been my shift and my response."
Borges was home when Andres Raya, an AWOL Marine, stood in front of George's Liquors with an insidious plot to murder officers. Holding a semi-automatic weapon under a rain poncho, Raya baited officers with a call of shots fired. Officers Sam Ryno and Chris Melton showed up first from the northwest. Raya's violent blast of rounds shattered Ryno's bone as Melton pulled him to safety. Raya then fatally blasted at Stevenson who was approaching from the southeast. When he heard officers were involved, Borges went to the police station and was getting suited up for SWAT team activation.
"As I was coming into the office, I heard that Sam had been wounded. When I got here I made the assumption that Howard - because he was the watch commander - had set up a Command Post. Dennis Perry came downstairs and I looked up at Dennis and asked him where Howie had the CP set up. And Dennis looked at me and said, ‘Mike, Howie didn't make it.' I had to rest and gather my thoughts, finished dressing, grabbed the team and we responded and the SWAT team went to work doing the work we were trained to do."
All Ceres officers were deeply shaken at the loss. But Borges recalls that the death added to the resolve of the SWAT team which went ahead with a gang search warrant scheduled just days later.
"It was probably one of the smoothest entries and searches we've ever done and we all kind of commented, ‘Well, Howard must have been there watching over us.' We were focused."
The death shook Mike's wife of 33 years, Susan Borges, his "support and rock" during his career.
"She knew what I was doing but she always hid a lot of her fears. When I got into the SWAT team that didn't help her anxiety any more. When Howard was killed, the possibility of that violence truly hit home and she shared some feelings that she kept hidden fairly well."
The worry may be disappearing for Susan this Friday but Mike laughed that she "is trying to figure out what we are going to do with ourselves."
Borges may stick around helping as a reserve. He also plans to stay active in Ceres Lions Club and he is still president of the Ceres Youth Baseball.
As he looks back he knows he's done some good. After he spoke at Stevenson's eulogy, Borges received a letter from a woman in the audience. The woman decided it was time to let Borges know that he positively affected her life when, as a policeman, he dealt with the call where she had been physically abused by her father.
"She remembers how I handled that call, interacted with her and her father and the impression I left on them. And ever since there relationship has been strong. She wanted to thank me for how I handled that call."
Borges said during times he was "bummed out" about his job, he would go read her letter as a reminder of why he does his job.
"You don't do this job because of what you get paid. You do this job to protect that law-abiding public."