The First 48

The First 48 best detectives: Jason White, Tulsa Homicide

The First 48 season 22 premieres this week on A&E, bringing television viewers back into the worlds of some truly exceptional police officers. There have been dozens if not hundreds of detectives that the show has been able to spotlight over the years, and as a longtime fan, I wanted to take some space to appreciate those who not only make the show the success that it is but more importantly are so great at what they do.

Disclaimer: In the interest of brevity, these features are limited to detectives who are currently being featured on The First 48 (still on the show)—otherwise I’d be writing dozens of articles and a whole essay about how Justin Ritter and Matt Frazier are my version of Batman and Robin.

Tulsa Homicide is The First 48‘s most well-known department and with good reason. It’s an incredible team of detectives, and it’s also a group of people that viewers can relate to and want to spend time with. One example is veteran detective Jason White (featured in such episodes as season 17’s “Snapshot” and “House of Horrors” from season 18).

Detective White’s biggest strength as an investigator is how calm and personable he is. Every one of his interviews and interrogations feels like he’s just talking to someone about their day. That’s something that is always aspired to but that’s difficult to achieve. White can put upset witnesses or loved ones at ease and if he gets upset at difficult suspects it’s pointed irritation, like your high school principal telling you he’s not angry, he’s just disappointed in you.

At the same time he holds people accountable. The First 48 has shown him not letting a woman off the hook when she fails to bring her son in for an interview (in “Unforgotten: Crystal”) and not mincing words when a murder suspect claims to not know what he did or even what drugs he takes (in “House of Horrors”). He expects the best out of everybody and that’s admirable in a world where so often we’re inclined to just accept the worst. And he never loses sight of the human element in any investigation, whether it’s what might be going through a suspect’s mind or the emotional toll on a victim’s family.

White also has a great dynamic with his partner Detective Ronnie Leatherman. The two have some really entertaining moments on the show, like the time they wrangled a goat or their discussion about the homicide unit’s spirit animals. You can tell the two of them genuinely enjoy working together, and with as serious and dark as The First 48 has to be it means something to the viewer to have those occasional moments of levity and get these glimpses into the detectives’ lives.

The First 48
Tulsa homicide detective Jason White (far right) in the interview room with detective Ronnie Leatherman (center) and officer Rodolfo Nava (far left) in the First 48 episode “Snapshot.” (Photo Credit: Screenshot/Courtesy of A&E.)

Which brings me to the last thing I love about Jason White on The First 48. These folks have a very serious and very hard job to do, and for the sake of our entertainment and/or education, they do it with a camera in their faces. This occasionally means having to stop and explain what they’re doing or the relevance of something to a producer. That’s harder than it looks (see: every cooking competition show, where chefs usually get interrupted to talk about their dish at the least opportune moment).

White is excellent at these talking to the audience moments. He’s able to explain things clearly, concisely, and it feels natural rather than like someone awkwardly stuck a camera in his face. That’s a gift for someone who is not a trained actor or TV personality. He makes it easy to understand what’s happening and why he and his team are doing the things that they do, and that context is priceless in a show like The First 48, where there are so many important parts to the story. If Detective White isn’t already giving media training to other cops, he absolutely should.

From a policing standpoint and also a show standpoint, Jason White is one of The First 48‘s best, and hopefully we’ll continue to see him in season 22.

The First 48 airs Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on A&E. Fans can also watch every episode on the A&E app with a cable provider login.

Article content is (c)2020-2023 Brittany Frederick and may not be excerpted or reproduced without express written permission by the author. Follow me on Twitter at @BFTVTwtr and on Instagram at @BFTVGram.

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