By Daniel Silliman
Five police officers, with more than 150 years of experience between them, have retired from the Clayton County Police Department.
"That kind of experience is hard to replace," said Chief Jeff Turner. "Basically, those who retired are those who helped lay the foundation for what our department is today."
Retiring, in a ceremony late last week, were:
· Maj. Phillip Cheek, with 31 years of experience, commander of the technical services division, including the records department and the Crime Scene Investigation unit.
· Maj. Vance Donald, with 31 years of experience, commander of the department's Narcotics and Gang Task Force. Turned said that last year, under Donald's supervision, narcotics agents seized about $97 million worth of drugs.
· Maj. Sherman Lemon, with 29 years experience, commander of the Criminal Investigative Division. Lemon, who was the second African American hired by the department, is now running for sheriff.
· Lt. Gary Ivey, with 31 years experience, assigned to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ivey was also with Army Reserve, Special Forces Command, and served in both Iraq wars and in Afghanistan, Turner said.
· Officer Linda Boyles, with 29 years experience, worked in the central watch office on the day shift. She was a Georgia Crime Information Center specialist, and worked with the records of stolen items.
Besides thanking the five as the chief, Turner said seeing the officers go is also personal. He has known these officers for most of his life, has worked side-by-side with them, and has turned to them for advice and direction as he came up through the ranks.
Turner, the department's first African-American chief, said Lemon, in particular, was an influential figure.
"He helped me and other young African Americans handle tough situations, as we were coming up through the ranks" Turner said. "He's always been mild mannered ... I've seen him, on numerous occasions, go into his own pocket to help officers in need. He has a big heart, and he's never hesitated to lend a helping hand."
The retirements will soon be followed by promotions, as officers move up in the ranks and take over the top spots. While a lot of "institutional memory" and "hard-earned experience" has left the department, with the retirements, Turner said he knows the force is filled with "hardworking and energetic people who are willing to stand up to the challenge."