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West Jordan Journal

West Jordan City first to bring ‘Lights On’ initiative to Utah

May 06, 2024 01:07PM ● By Rebecca Olds

Officer Kasey Griffin pulls over a West Jordan resident and gives them a voucher from the “Lights On” initiative worth $250 to fix a burned out tail and headlight. (Rebeccca Olds/City Journals)

On Monday, April 15, West Jordan Police Department partnered with “Lights On” to start a new initiative in the city where officers can give out vouchers instead of citations for non-working vehicle lights.

“Within some households, seemingly minor issues like a malfunctioning taillight or turn signal can create significant dilemmas, pitting crucial repairs against basic household needs,” Chief Ken Wallentine said. 

“This program provides our officers a way to engage in a wonderful conversation with people in our community and say ‘look, we can help you with that,’” Wallentine said.

A conversation that can start out pretty awkward.

Officer Kasey Griffin let me ride along with him after the initiative started for a couple of hours to observe how people reacted to the new vouchers.

West Jordan is the first city in Utah to implement the program and Wallentine said he hopes other cities in the state “will join with us.”

Money for the vouchers comes from the “Lights On” parent organization, Microgrants, and can be redeemed within two weeks for up to $250 at voluntary service locations within West Jordan.

“Anything we can do to make an encounter positive, it’s all the better for us and the community,” Sgt. Brian Schaaf of the city’s police department said, who spearheaded getting the program to West Jordan. “I think we’re all pretty excited.”

Griffin wouldn’t really consider himself “a ticket guy,” he just doesn’t like to ruin people’s days, he said.

While I was in the passenger seat, Griffin stopped three West Jordan residents for either a burnt out tail light or headlight, but only gave out one voucher. 

“Because they’re so limited,” he said, “I want to get them to the people that really need them.” 

Between 130 officers, there are only 200 vouchers until the end of the year because it’s just a pilot program for now. If this year goes well, there could be more vouchers to be given out next year. 

To determine if the person being pulled-over would really benefit from a voucher, he asked subtle questions like “would this repair be a hardship for your family?” in order to gauge the situation. 

It’s a question that prompted a surprised expression from each person he asked. 

“The second I gave it to him, his face lit up,” Griffin said. The resident said thank you and continued on his way. “It can really be a good experience if the cop makes it a good one,” he said.

Big O Tires is one of the community-based locations where drivers can use the vouchers. 

“The biggest thing is supporting these officers and what they’re trying to do,” Adam Garton said, manager of the West Jordan Big O Tires. “And take the perception of what a negative traffic stop would be and turn it into something positive.”

The “Lights On” program started in 2017 in Minneapolis to help build positive police-citizen interaction and has since grown to 160 departments across 21 states, said the company’s vice president, Sherman Patterson.

For the West Jordan PD, it’s a way for them to build and give back to the community.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Patterson. “Why would you not want to do it?”

The initiative doesn’t have an expiration date and will continue as long as there is funding. λ