Behind the badge: BYU officer practices compassion at work



    The phone rang during the interview, but BYU Police Lt. Arnold Lemmon did not mind. It was part of his job.

    ?One of my favorite ladies,? Lemmon said of the caller.

    The woman on the phone was a rape ?survivor? whom Lemmon kept in contact with after working on her case.

    ?The worst that could happen is his case will go up for review,? he told the survivor after she explained that her stepfather was appealing his case from prison. ?We?ll get through it.?

    Her stepfather, a former BYU employee, went to jail for molesting and raping her during her childhood and teenage years.

    Lemmon, the manager of criminal investigations at BYU, has worked with multiple rape survivors.

    ?When you work a sexual assault case you have to go in totally trusting them,? Lemmon said after hanging up the phone. ?If they?re not telling the truth it will come out. You have to empower them and let them know you care, or you should get out of this business.?

    Lemmon?s wife RoAnn said he wants to help people get through the tough times.

    ?We?ve often adopted victims until they get through it,? RoAnn said. ?He is such a good example of manhood and a lot of times victims and their families form a bond with that. He reaches out to people and connects with them.?

    Lemmon has been reaching out to victims at BYU for 26 years after beginning his career on the road in 1978as a patrol officer.

    He currently manages a unit that handles criminal investigations, dignitary protection, crime prevention and security systems.

    ?By numbers mine is the smallest division, but it is the most fun,? Lemmon said. ?We have a variety of things to do and we are always learning.?

    One officer Lemmon hired to work with the students in the dorms, Wayne Beck, has worked with Lemmon for six years.

    ?He [Lemmon] looks at the long-term benefits for people,? Beck said. ?He?s here to make a difference and because of that he thinks outside the box.?

    In a recent incident, a male student exposed his bare bottom, a Class-C misdemeanor, to a girl in the dorms. The girl said she didn?t want to see the boy prosecuted or have to register as a sex offender; she just didn?t want it to happen again.

    ?We don?t care what your religion or social status is,? Lemmon said. ?Our focus is to enforce the law in an equitable manner.?

    The officer who responded to the girl?s call did not cite him for lewd conduct at the scene. Lemmon interviewed the male student to find out more about him.

    In this case, the student was apologetic and ?a straight arrow,? so Lemmon said he supported the original officer?s decision not to cite him.

    ?This was a really good kid who didn?t think,? Lemmon said. ?He would have paid for it for the rest of his life.?

    RoAnn said she thinks being a father has helped her husband be more compassionate.

    ?He has so much empathy and compassion for people,? RoAnn said. ?However, he is very fair. He can be merciful, but he is also very solid in justice. He has an amazing ability to balance those two things. You have to in the police world.?

    Lemmon has investigated a host of crimes that occurred on BYU campus including the only murder to ever occur on campus.

    Jessie American Bear was killed in 1984 by her ex-husband Harvey Kicking Bear in her Wymount apartment; her body was found by their 8-year-old son. When Lemmon first got to the crime scene it looked like American Bear had killed herself. There was even a suicide note.

    ?When we sprayed the place down with luminol we found drag marks,? Lemmon said. ?Dead people don?t drag themselves.?

    RoAnn Lemmon said many cases her husband works on, such as Jessie American Bear?s, almost break her heart but she doesn?t worry about him at BYU like she would if he were working for the L.A. P.D.

    After getting married, Lemmon finished his schooling with a bachelor?s degree in police science and a master?s in public administration. They met after Lemmon served a full-time mission in Kentucky and Tennessee. Lemmon?s younger brother was working in the same restaurant as RoAnn and when Lemmon was looking for a date his brother said, ?She has long blonde hair and she drives a Firebird. You should date her.?

    ?We?ve been married 33 years and we?re going on eternity,? said RoAnn, who teaches fifth grade in the Provo school district.

    The Lemmons? have four children. Their youngest, 7-year-old Matthew was born 17 years after his three sisters.

    ?It was a divine act to get that little guy,? Lemmon said. ?When I was first raising my three daughters I was focused on my career. I didn?t take the time I should have. When my son was born I quit all my extra jobs. When I go home I focus on him.?

    Matthew said his favorite thing about his father is that he is a police officer because he feels safe with him. They like to play cops and robbers together and chase each other.

    ?These are special times,? Lemmon said. ?As you grow up you realize life is pretty fragile.?

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