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Springfield police partner with nonprofit to offer free repair vouchers — instead of some tickets

NAACP Springfield officials including Isabelle Jimenez Walker, Zipporah Burns and Kai Sutton comment at a Springfield Police Department news conference Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
NAACP Springfield officials including Isabelle Jimenez Walker, Zipporah Burns and Kai Sutton comment at a Springfield Police Department news conference Friday, Feb. 9, 2024.

The new partnership with Lights On! is aimed at building trust with the community, say Springfield police and local NAACP officials.

Springfield police announced they’re now working with national nonprofit Lights On! to replace mechanical violation tickets with a no-cost repair voucher.

Beginning this spring, Springfield police officers conducting routine traffic stops for an issue like a burned-out taillight or broken turn signal will have the option to give motorists a voucher to get free repairs at a local auto center. That’s instead of a ticket, says Chief Paul Williams.

He told reporters Friday morning, “Officers are an empathetic group that, man, they don’t want to write that ticket when they look at that person, they talk to them for a few minutes and find out they’re a single mom and they’re on their way to their second job.”

The idea is to create a restorative, positive interaction between community members and law enforcement. LightsOn! began in Minnesota after the 2016 death of Philando Castile, who was initially pulled over for a broken taillight before a police officer shot him.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 announced a partnership with national nonprofit Lights On! to replace some traffic tickets with no-cost car repair vouchers.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams on Friday, Feb. 9, 2024 announced a partnership with national nonprofit Lights On! to replace some traffic tickets with no-cost car repair vouchers.

The Springfield NAACP told KSMU they think Lights On! will be a "great program." They kicked off local fundraising efforts with a $2,500 donation. SPD is encouraging local auto shops to help out with the program by signing up at lightsonUS.org.

NAACP officials say they’ve been working on the effort for a few years now. Meanwhile, in recent years the Springfield area has had a series of taillight clinics put on by advocates with the Southwest Missouri Solidarity Network, in hopes of preventing unnecessary traffic stops in the first place. The new LightsOn! program is a different effort working directly with the police department.

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams told KSMU that LightsOn! repair vouchers are new to Missouri, with Springfield and St. Charles being among the first communities to adopt the idea.

LightsOn officials said they're currently working with 175 law enforcement agencies in 21 states. Some 12,000 vouchers have been redeemed so far. Each voucher has a tracking number, so the nonprofit can measure the effectiveness of the program.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.