Thursday was a day little JJ Montalban from New Bedford will never forget as he was officially sworn in as an honorary member of the New Bedford Police Department.

New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira, alongside his staff and members of the New Bedford City Council, invited the young recruit to the Rockdale Avenue police station headquarters.

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As JJ entered the room with School Resource Officer Shane Harris, all eyes were on him. Suited up in his little police uniform, the only thing missing was the badge, but it wouldn't be long until JJ's dream of becoming a police officer turned real.

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JJ, 6, is in desperate need of a heart transplant, having been born with multiple heart issues. It's been a rough go for the boy, but he's been fighting as hard as he can so he can grow up to be a police officer.

Thursday, JJ took one step closer to achieving that dream.

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There were other honors in store, too. Moments before JJ was sworn in as a member of the department, Rev. Brian Dube recited a prayer and New Bedford City Councilor Brad Markey dubbed JJ an honorary member of the council. Markey presented JJ with a pin he can wear wherever he goes.

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Then, the big moment. Chief Oliveira approached the podium, addressing JJ, the family and a room full of supporters.

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"This is a very special day for our department," Oliveira said, "JJ is a wonderful young man who has expressed his love and admiration for police in a way that has touched us all. Many officers can identify with being a small child who aspires to one day join the police department. It's a common beginning to our life stories. It starts with a dream, transforms into ambition, and if we're fortunate enough, eventually becomes a reality.

"[JJ] brings joy to those around him and, most importantly, he has the love and support of the entire police department behind him. To JJ: You have the strongest heart in the room and we will always be there for you and your family, as we would for any of our brother and sister police officers.

"Welcome to the family."

Oliveira knelt beside JJ and asked the boy to raise his hand to take the oath. As Oliveira spoke, JJ repeated.

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"Congratulations, you are now an honorary member of the New Bedford Police Department," Oliveira said as Harris presented JJ with his very own badge.

As excited as JJ was to become an officer, the NBPD had one last surprise for him: a motorized Big Wheels police cruiser. JJ jumped right in, taking his little sister along for a ride through the halls of the station.

JJ, asked who his favorite superhero is, immediately pointed to Officer Harris, the school resource officer, we learned at the ceremony. That's just who JJ is, a kind and sweet boy who looks up to our first responders in hopes of one day patrolling beside them.

Although his heart health is his priority, Thursday at least was a time to put aside the medical talk and hospital stays so JJ can be a kid who is simply crushing his dreams.

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"Team JJ" just grew a whole lot stronger.

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