Investigator Lauren Kemp, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, works on her caseload. She is a special victims investigator. Sex crimes involving people of all ages in various situations are in her caseload. 

By Debby Schamber – For the Record

Lauren Kemp, investigator for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, may seem a little bit rough around the edges to some people, but those who really know the 18-year law enforcement veteran know she has a heart as big as Texas.

Kemp was not one who always dreamed of becoming a cop, but the single mom of three children needed a better-paying job to support her family. She was already employed by the county in the personnel office, but needed to make more money. It wasn’t a lot more money, but bigger and better things were on the horizon for Kemp.

One of the biggest influences in her life, John Tarver, gave her a job at the Orange County Jail. While working in the jail she learned invaluable lessons on how to work with various people but also to respect people no matter their circumstances. Kemp remained in the jail for another six years. During that time she was promoted to sergeant.

“I believed initially that as soon as I started my career, I knew this was the career for me,” Kemp said. “I had answered God’s calling.”

 Her talent for remembering names has helped her in many ways over the course of her career.

 “People respond positively when they feel they matter,” she said. ” I never confuse someone’s status in life with their value.”

Kemp took her law enforcement career a step further when she looked into becoming a police officer. But, the single mother knew she could not take off work to go to the police academy. At the time the sheriff’s office was not sponsoring candidates through the academy, so Kemp applied at the Orange Police Department.

Sam Kittrell, former OPD police chief, is another notable influence in Kemp’s life. He believed in her and provided her the opportunity to go to the police academy. Kemp started by working in patrol. To this day she says being a patrol officer is still in her blood.

While working at OPD another influential person entered her life. Sarah Jefferson-Simon was a long-time respected female officer who served as a role model for Kemp since she too was a single mother.

Jefferson-Simon is also a strong and powerful woman, according to Kemp.

Kemp stayed with OPD for another seven years before going to the sheriff’s office. Another important person in Kemp’s life is Sheriff Keith Merritt. He gave Kemp the opportunity to become an investigator and specialize as a special victims investigator. Sex crimes involving people of all ages in various situations are in her caseload.

As a young girl, Kemp was sexually abused. For Kemp it gives her the chance to make a difference in someone’s life while working through her own pain.

“I can identify with their situation without judgement,” Kemp said.

For Kemp one of the most difficult things about her job is how to juggle her time between the cases. She is pulled in so many directions with each case and no one case is more important than the other.

“It’s incredibly difficult and sometimes impossible,” she said.

Not only do her cases require her time, but also intensity, devotion and compassion. At times, Kemp is drained both emotionally and physically because of the spiritual battle of good versus evil. There are some cases where she has not yet gotten a conviction. But, she refuses to close them out. It is the “little girl inside” her that just won’t allow it.

But, sometimes a case is more difficult than meets the eye.

“I get aggravated when I can’t get enough evidence to prosecute the case because of proving it to the letter of the law or the spirit of the law,” Kemp said. “It is more difficult than people ever imagine.”

Kemp has dealt with a lot of pedophiles during her career and has strong opinions about them.

“I don’t believe there is a cure for the predatory pedophile,” she said firmly.

After a long and difficult day, Kemp turns to music of all genres and especially jazz. She also loves to paint and draw. Kemp attends church to “recharge” her batteries too.

The last two people who are important in Kemp’s career are Tom Ray and K.C. Breshears. Ray went through the academy with Kemp and the pair has shared a special kinship. Breshears has always taken her under his wing and shared his wisdom with her. Both men are special to her in their own unique way.

Although, her fellow brothers in blue are also dear to her heart. But, it’s not just her fellow male cops but their wives too.

“I support my blue family with all that I have and I know they support me with all they have,” Kemp said.

Recent headlines have been about cops being shot and sometimes doing the shooting.

“The majority of cops live their lives as a true servant’s heart. Only a small percentage are bad,” Kemp said. “The majority of cops just want to help and protect people.”

In addition, she feels the things said negatively about cops are from a group of people with their own agenda.

“Although it has been difficult to hear about the current trend, I absolutely and positively cannot imagine doing something else,” Kemp said. “I still think law enforcement is a very honorable profession and I am proud to be a police officer.”