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Lancaster police chief wants a slower-pace job

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By Johnathan Ryan

Lancaster Police Chief Hugh White has decided to retire at the start of next year and pursue other interests.White notified city officials of his decision Wednesday. He has served the city police department for more than 25 years, including eight years as chief.“The pace, of course, as a police chief comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of stress,” White said. “I’m looking for a slower pace.”White, 48, said he’ll look for a job outside of law enforcement. At his age, he can start drawing retirement benefits from the state.White joined the department in 1982 as a patrolman. As a young man, he didn’t quite know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, but he knew one thing.“The greater good of the community where I live has always been important to me,” he said. “I knew that whatever I did I wanted to make sure it was helping people in some way.”His interest in law enforcement was spawned when he completed an internship at the Monroe Police Department while a senior at Wingate University. He majored in human services studies, which was a multidisciplinary degree in sociology and psychology.Until that experience, White was considering the ministry or social work.“I started riding with the officers,” he said. “Once I completed the internship, I pursued a different path.”Now he can’t think of any better way of helping people than law enforcement.“Many people think we just go out and arrest people, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” he said. “It’s about being of service any way you can to the community.”White rose through the patrol ranks in the 1980s, becoming captain by 1990. In 1995, he got his first taste of administrative work as administrative captain while also serving as patrol captain.In 1998, he became assistant chief and in 1999 was appointed chief.Through it all, he said his greatest asset has been his ability to deal with people, whether it’s the public, the suspect or within the department.“I do fairly well in personnel and community issues as well as citizen complaints,” he said. “That’s my strong point.”White said he worked hard to advance in his career.“I read everything I could get my hands on about law enforcement,” White said. “I had a strong drive to improve and excel.” White is particularly proud of curtailing a longtime tradition gone wrong in downtown Lancaster: cruising.He said he remembers doing it as a teenager, but by the time he had become chief, drugs, fights and vandalism had tarnished the pastime. “As we spent more and more time down there, we would see the fights break out and business owners would find trash in front of their businesses on Monday morning and vandalism,” he said. “We had to do something about it.” Patrols were substantially increased and now there’s no cruising at all in downtown Lancaster. “I don’t know where they are but they aren’t in downtown Lancaster,” White said, laughing.He’s also proud to have participated in the cleaning of the Hill area of East Gay Street, which was plagued by assaults, public drunkenness, loitering, drugs and shootings. The city still has problems, especially with illegal drugs, which White calls the city’s biggest crime problem. He’s seen it go from rampant marijuana use to a wide array of drugs now dealt and used.“It’s as bad now as it’s ever been,” White said.

‘One to excel’Lancaster City Councilman Bill Sumner, who was police chief from 1985 to 1995, said White was promoted because of his eagerness to learn and complete new training.“He was always one who wanted to excel at whatever he did,” Sumner said. “I found him to be very loyal and dedicated to his profession.”Sumner said White and his staff were able to secure many grants from state and federal governments during his time as chief, saving taxpayers.“You have to do what is honest and what is fair and best for the community, and I think Chief White has done that,” Sumner said. City Administrator Helen Sowell said there are no plans for how City Council will search for a new chief. But as with any other department leader position that opens up, it will be posted five days in-department.“I’m sure council (Lancaster City) will discuss what to do this Tuesday in executive session,” she said.

Contact Johnathan Ryanat 416-8416 orjryan@thelancasternews.com