“I like to talk a lot, I’m sorry,” Wharton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jaycee Lorenzen says as we shut the door.
This is my first ride-along since moving back to Wharton. It’s a warm and humid afternoon in October. But this is how our afternoon will be — filled with conversation with only brief periods of action then lulls, but never a dull moment.
Lorenzen tells me how she was born in California and moved to Boling when she was a young girl. She graduated from Boling High School in 2010 and attended college, studying physical therapy, but never finished.
Lorenzen was working at Buc-cees one day when former WCSO Capt. T.J. Sparkman approached her, asking if she’d like to come work for the sheriff’s office.
You see, Jaycee doesn’t come from a police family, with the exception of her aunt and uncle, who also serve the WCSO. She recounts how there were a few members in her family that served in the military, but she had never considered a career in law enforcement.
“‘Looking in my rearview to see lights? This is my worst nightmare,’ I joke and we laugh as she stops the cruiser. ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be lovely,’ Lorenzen responds.”
She started as a dispatcher in 2013 and a year and a half later, moved to the jail division, monitoring the female inmates.
“It took me a long time to get on the streets because there were no spots,” Lorenzen says. “I’d never really considered going into law enforcement in the first place; it wasn’t until they asked me. It was more of like an option. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian.”
We’re not even 10 minutes into our ride when she pops a U-turn on Highway 60 for a pickup truck going 67 miles per hour in a 55.
Lorenzen chases the vehicle, reaching speeds up to 90 miles per hour until she finally tracks him down. My adrenaline is pumping as I watch the speedometer and we creep closer to the vehicle in question.
“Looking in my rearview to see lights? This is my worst nightmare,” I joke and we laugh as she stops the cruiser. “Don’t worry, it’ll be lovely,” Lorenzen responds.
She calls in the license plate then gets out. I stay in the car and watch as Lorenzen touches the back of his tailgate. Later, she’ll tell me that this is so her fingerprints will be left on the vehicle should anything happen.
Lorenzen approaches the driver with a smile and a friendly disposition.
I can’t hear their conversation from the cruiser parked behind just feet away, but from what I know about Jaycee, she’s professional as she speaks to the driver and returns with his license to write him a warning.
The entire ordeal only takes approximately six minutes as she radios dispatch that she’s back in service.
“I imagine how hard it must be to witness something like that and then go home to your child … but before I can ponder the feeling for too long she asks, ‘Do you want to go serve some warrants?'”
It’s 1:54 p.m. and she pulls over another pickup going 87 miles per hour on U.S. 90.
Six minutes later and she’s already given him a warning. “He was nice,” she says. “He knew what he was doing.”
Lorenzen tells me how she’s risen up within WCSO from her time as a dispatcher. In her second year on patrol, she was promoted to corporal, then to sergeant in the summer of 2019. In her first year on the streets, she was awarded officer of the year.
“You’re supposed to make this speech during the awards ceremony, but I talked to the sheriff beforehand and told him I was too nervous to say anything,” Lorenzen says as I pull out my phone to snap a photo of her in action. “When they handed me the award, I just blushed and got beat red. Even as you were taking my picture, I could feel my cheeks starting to flush.”
I try to ask about what an honor that must have been and Lorenzen is nothing but humble. I get the feeling that she has a job to do and she does it without expectation of praise or acclaim.
After our third and final traffic stop, I ask her what kind of calls she prefers.
In my experience with law enforcement, everyone has a preferred call — whether it be DWIs, traffic stops, assaults.
Lorenzen protests that she doesn’t really have a favorite, but I push her and she admits, “I like to take domestic violence calls.”
She recounts a harrowing moment early in her career on the streets when she responded to a domestic violence call. When they entered the home, a small child was standing in the kitchen with glass all around him.
Lorenzen has a son of her own.
I imagine how hard it must be to witness something like that and then go home to your child — how hard it must be to serve on the front lines of people’s worst days and then tuck your child in at night, knowing what is out there beyond the safety of your home, but before I can ponder the feeling for too long she asks, “Do you want to go serve some warrants?”
“Um, do I? Let’s go,” I say, ready to see her in action.
“I pause, taking in the moment for a sliver of reflection and realize that I am watching two tough women kick ass at their job. I smile at the thought … “
As we make the drive to El Campo to meet up with WCSO deputy Laura Staude, I ask, “Do you think there are certain qualities to cops?”
She responds hesitantly, “Hmm. I don’t know.”
I probe her question with my own thoughts: “When it comes to stereotypes, I think, ‘Confidence and ego.’”
Before I even finish the sentence, she adds, “Headstrong. But at the same time, ‘What makes a good cop versus what makes a cop who just occupies space?’ There’s a big difference and a million things that make a better cop. So, I don’t know. But mainly, headstrong.”
I ask, “Do you think cops with more empathy are better cops or more reckless?”
“It could swing either way. It depends on their attitude over all,” Lorenzen says. “I think that’s like 90% of the job. If you come to work with a bad attitude, you’re going to ruin everyone’s day and your own day. So, it’s really just like any other profession.”
I am again reminded of her humility and professionalism.
Even as we serve a warrant on a teenager for a charge I neglected to ask about, she embodies that positive, yet determined attitude.
We reach a small home in a quiet neighborhood of El Campo.
Staude bangs on the front door, while Lorenzen walks around the back.
I pause, taking in the moment for a sliver of reflection and realize that I am watching two tough women kick ass at their job. I smile at the thought as Staude leads the young man to the cruiser in handcuffs.
Since our backup for warrant service is taking this young man to jail, we decide to head back to Wharton.
It’s 4:17 p.m. when we meet deputy Anthony Rome in front of the sheriff’s office at Riverfront Park.
The sun is starting to dip lower into the sky. My stomach grumbles. “I should have eaten lunch,” I think to myself, self-flagellating. I wonder, “How does she do this for 12 hours straight?”
But we press on and five minutes later, we’re off to the address of another wanted individual.
The officers’ efforts would prove unfruitful after the same routine — Rome knocks and Lorenzen goes around to the back.
“We’ll get ‘em next time,” she says with her ever positive disposition.
“She represents the true integrity of law enforcement. Not only does she treat people with kindness and respect, but is stern with it comes to the enforcement of the law.”
It’s 4:48 p.m. when we arrive at our next residence near the railroad tracks.
Despite the two cars in the driveway, when Rome knocks, no one answers. Lorenzen circles back around to the front and heads to the cruiser.
There are more warrants to serve, but my husband is on his way home and I’m starting to feel lightheaded, kicking myself for not eating before I showed up to the sheriff’s office almost four hours earlier.
I don’t want to interrupt her in the middle of service, but I meekly ask if she’ll take me back to my car, knowing that as soon as I leave, she’ll be back out there, patrolling the streets until her shift ends in just a few hours.
I get out of the cruiser, thanking her profusely for her time. I tell her to stay tuned for the article. “I just need to find an angle,” I say.
As I thought about writing this story, I procrastinated, not knowing how to exactly pin down Lorenzen into words. So, I sent a text to Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar, asking how he would describe his sergeant.
He put it perfectly: “She represents the true integrity of law enforcement. Not only does she treat people with kindness and respect, but is stern with it comes to the enforcement of the law.”
It’s true — Jaycee is both friendly and unflinching, humble and ambitious.
I want to tell her that the truth is, I don’t really have an angle.
There’s not really a point to this story, except to say that in a time when people are becoming increasingly skeptical of law enforcement, Jaycee is the epitome of good police.
And Wharton County is a better community when she is patrolling our streets.