Officer of the Year: Deputy Jason White
A rite of passage for many students in the United States is to take a trip to the nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C. to see the sites and visit the national museums – an experience that should pass without potentially deadly consequences. For the 150 eighth grade students from Swartz Creek that should have been their experience on February 13, 2020; unfortunately, that was not the case. Included in the group was 17-year veteran Deputy Jason White, of Genesee County, who was there to be a chaperone for his daughter’s class. It was at 5 p.m. when an unexpected and frightening incident occurred.
Three buses from Genesee County were parked just a few blocks from the National Portrait Gallery. The first bus had already unloaded, and the group was beginning to cross the street toward the Gallery entrance. As the second bus began to unload, Deputy White heard gunshots rang out.
While watching over the children, Deputy White saw approximately 50 yards from them lay a gunshot victim with another man standing over him with a weapon. Deputy White’s police instincts turned into action as he instantly began directing the students back onto the buses. While the students got back on the bus, the suspect shot the wounded victim two more times before fleeing in a direction away from the students. While the students were being taken care of by the teachers and other chaperones, Deputy White dialed 911. Deputy White, then without a weapon or personal protection, ran in the direction the suspect had headed. Deputy White knew he might be the only defense between the suspect and other potential victims.
In Deputy White’s path, the victim appeared dead from his wounds. He continued to trail the suspect while still on the phone with 911 providing real-time updates for the dispatcher regarding the direction of the suspect, a description, and other vital information the local authorities would need. Within minutes, he heard sirens and was informed by the dispatcher the local police were in the area. Once Deputy White had visual verification of the local police at the scene, he immediately headed back to the victim to provide lifesaving efforts. He was met by D.C. Metro Police and stayed at the scene to offer assistance as needed.
Once back at the hotel, the students were debriefed by Deputy White about the incident. He took the opportunity to reassure the students of their safety and to praise them on their ability to handle the dangerous circumstances so well. Once home, he called the incident an anomaly; however as he told his fellow officers, “You are never really off-duty as a police officer.”
Deputy White encourages families to be “vigilant and aware of their surroundings, remain calm, and call 911 if they see anything.” Although he appreciated the gratefulness from the community, he feels he was “just doing my job” and “the real credit goes to the teachers and those kids. They are the real heroes.”
For Deputy White’s heroic instincts and quick action, the Police Officers Association of Michigan is presenting him with the 2020 Police Officer of the Year award.