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Detective, others praised for police work

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The first time Robin Skinner McPherson met James Scott Eskew, he was a patrolman and she was 14 and trying to ride a dirt bike on the street, and he caught her.

"He caught me," she said, "and made me push it home. It was a long way and he followed right behind me. I couldn't stand him."

The second time she met Eskew, he was a homicide detective investigating the murder of her brother, Donald Ray Skinner. Now, McPherson sings Eskew's praises, thanking him for his work, which led to the arrests of her brother's wife and the brother's wife's boyfriend, a State Farmers' Market Police Officer.

She is now one of the many who say Eskew is among the best of the best homicide detectives. Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner praised Eskew as one of the department's most experienced and professional officers, when he assigned him to a controversial and racially charged shooting, earlier this year -- and defense attorneys said he makes their job difficult.

Eskew, who joined the police department in 1976, appreciates the compliments, but believes the comments are exaggerated. "I'm certainly not the best of the best," he said, "but I do my best. I believe this is my calling."

Eskew said the best detective he's ever seen was his father, who worked homicides in Atlanta. The elder Eskew tried to dissuade his son from following his career path, he said, and took him to an autopsy at age 12, in the hopes it would disgust and deter him from joining law enforcement.

"I believe his whole strategy was to gross me out," Eskew said, "but I thought it was the most fascinating thing I'd ever seen."

Eskew was recently named Detective of the Year, in a commendation citing his investigation of Skinner's murder.

Eskew, however, is quick to praise the other detectives involved in the investigation: Capt. Rick Gandee, Lt. Wilfred Norwood, Sgt. C. D. Blissitt and Detective Steve Rotella.

Other Clayton County Police Department personnel honored recently, include:

Officers Elgin Scott and Michael LeBlanc, who were given the Medal of Valor, for their role in responding to the Budget Inn fire in Riverdale in June. They discovered the scene, called 911, and went from motel room to motel room, waking people up and saving lives.

Tammy York was named Dispatcher of the Year, for her work relaying detailed information to officers quickly. According to the commendation, York was noted this year for taking calls concerning armed robberies and burglaries, and relaying information which led to felony arrests.

David Ricks is the department's 2007 Officer of the Year. The commendation noted several achievements during the year. In January, Ricks chased down an alleged burglar, without assistance. In July, he responded to an accident with injuries on Ga. Highway 42 near Lake Harbin Road, and pulled three teens from a flaming vehicle, saving their lives.

Special Agent Amy Kemper, with the department's Drug and Gang Task Force, was named Narcotics Officer of the Year. Kemper has initiated more than 30 drug cases and made 34 arrests in the last year. In January, according to the award, she assisted in an investigation of a cocaine trafficking ring which resulted in a federal racketeering investigation and the federal indictment of the alleged head of the organization.

Robert Gardener, a School Resource Officer, was given the 2007 Medal of Merit for performing the Hemlich maneuver on a fellow officer, who was choking on his lunch.

Gina Caufman was named Animal Control Officer of the Year, for going "beyond the call of duty," according to the commendation. "In a recent case, Officer Caufman witnessed an incident of Animal Cruelty towards a stray dog while handling a call for service. Out of a sense of duty, she ensured that criminal charges were brought."

Helen Cothran, who has been working with the county since 2004, was named Code Enforcement Officer of the Year. She embraced the Code Enforcement's transfer to the police department, in May, "with enthusiasm," according to the commendation. Since then, she has conducted more than 550 first inspections and more than 300 second inspections.

Linda Enholm was named Police Services Clerk of the Year. She has been in the police department's records division since 2003. "Erhold's productivity consistently surpasses expectations and is usually done with little or no errors," the award reads. "She has taken on the responsibility of training new clerks and voluntarily changes her shift hours to ensure that the work is done properly and that a notary clerk is available during evening shift hours."

Gail Butler, who has worked with the police since 1986, was named Crime Scene Investigator of the Year. In January, Butler's "professional attitude and high level of diligence" led her to discover information in a homicide case where detectives had no leads. Her supervisors said she researched other crimes, similar to the homicide, and her work led to the identification of a suspect.