For many years now a familiar face appeared at practically every HPOU general membership meeting.
Everyone knew him because they had seen him at so many HPD events and hit him up for so many photographs of many of those events – which included crime scenes.
Officers at those scenes knew Lance White “was one of them.”
A Great Mentor
A graduate of HPD Academy Class No. 43 in February 1970, White spent 32 years on the force until his retirement in September 2006. Over the course of his long tenure he had refined his photography skills and when HPD needed a forensic photographer to fill a vacancy in 2007 the retired officer was welcomed back to the fold in a civilian capacity.
Over the 10 years since Lance’s rock solid reputation and work ethic were found to be reliable by everyone with whom he worked.
Lance White died Oct. 27 at age 68. It’s an understatement to say he will be missed.
“He taught me everything I know,” HPOU photographer and retired HPD Officer Gary Hicks said with a sad face. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t learned from him over the years.
“I feel that Lance documented the history of the HPD. What’s going to be missing is his humor, hid kindness and generosity. He was helpful and knew no strangers. He eased everybody’s worries about taking pictures.
“He always brought humor to his job. What’s really missed is his dependability, his willingness to help. Whenever you went somewhere he gave a lot of guidance, leadership and guidance.
“A lot of people didn’t seem to realize that he was highly religious. He just had a Christian spirit. When you were at a loss, he had a way of guiding you back. Everybody at his memorial service spoke of his kind words.”
In 2014, White was asked about his favorite photos. He thought a minute, smiled and then said, “They are hanging around my house. I like the one of my daughters. It’s a 40 by 60 (inches) hanging in the entry way. You can’t miss it. When you walk in, you know I’m in photography.”
“It’s still hanging there,” said HPD Sgt. Brett Cross of Burglary & Theft said, still thoughtful and appreciative of his father-in-law. Cross married Blake Ann, one of the two Lance and Bonnie White daughters in the huge photograph.
Sgt. Cross explained that Blake Ann’s sister, Ashley, is married to a Dr. Pepper marketing official, Ronnie Seals. “That’s where Lance and I got all of our Dr. Pepper shirts that you see us wearing.”
Cross smiled when he pointed out that Lance was the grandfather to four – three granddaughters and one grandson.
“I am the father of the only boy in the family,” he said. “His name is Lance. We named him after his grandfather.”
Grandfather Lance was a key part of the history of the highly recognized Photo Lab on one of the top floors of 1200 Travis.
The HPOU specially recognized the HPD photo staff in 2014 by providing lunch for these folks, led by coordinator Tim Palmer and also including Larry Curley and Matt Fowler.
Fowler, of course, has been an HPD officer since Hicks was a little boy (or so it seems) and always seemed to accompany White at the HPOU events, whether the monthly meetings or the annual HPD Heroes luncheon during Police Week. In fact, the record shows these photographers do some of their best work at this special period in May and at the special memorial ceremonies held for officers killed in the line of duty.
It also should be noted that the Department has several dozen officers capable of doing forensic photography at crime scenes should the need arise.
Each of them learned the trade from Fowler and White.
Fowler, in a special Badge & Gun feature about the HPD forensic photography staff three years ago, recalled how he and White really got to know each other.
Fowler was a pioneer of sorts, although he doesn’t like to be called a pioneer; he said he began teaching photography classes to officers in order for HPD to get the crime scene jobs done correctly.
The officer began teaching three-day basic photography to his fellow officers. After learning concepts, the students spent the second day taking their own shots before getting the film processed and hearing their teacher’s evaluations before leaving with a pretty good understanding of photography after Day 3.
Sure enough, in one class, one of the 25 officer students sat at the back of the room and never said much. When he did speak, he knew what he was talking about and was well spoken.
At least that was Fowler’s impression of Officer Lance White.
In 2014, his tongue well placed in his cheek, White said he realized “I was a better photographer than I was a police officer. That was eight years ago,” Lance said at the time. “I left in ’05 and came back here in ’06, just in the nick of time.”
Palmer explained that the Photo Lab personnel “photograph PR for the department, the chief, the mayor, City Council and the Protocol Office. We photograph anything from awards and promotions, and presidents of other countries visiting with the mayor.”
And, be sure that forensic photography ranks high in importance. In a typical year these guys print up to a half million photos or more for all HPD divisions, who, in turn, often see them presented as evidence before Harris County juries.
In addition, the photographers take payroll photos and the head shots for PR, retirements, graduations from the academy, promotion ceremonies, proclamations at City Hall and a lot of special projects for chiefs, customer service posters, new recruiting campaigning, the seat belt campaign, and anything that would include basically group photos for different divisions.
An untold number of these shots have appeared regularly in the Badge & Gun over the past several decades.
The photo staff always has been noted for its professionalism and courtesy. White symbolized these characteristics, as testified to by Gary Hicks.
“They treat me like a king,” Hicks said. “These folks do an excellent job of photographing so many events. Without them, the Department would lose a great photographic history of major events and people.”