Headlights

The Prior Lake Police Department will begin giving free repair vouchers for drivers’ broken and burnt out headlights under a program that includes dozens of other local departments and the Minnesota State Patrol.

The program, called Lights On, was created by the Twin Cities-based nonprofit Microgrants in the aftermath of the July 2016 shooting of Philando Castile. Castile was fatally shot by a St. Anthony police officer following a traffic stop for burnt-out break lights on Castile’s car.

Instead of issuing a warning or repeated tickets, officers can choose to give a driver a voucher to cover the costs of repairing their lights at a partnering auto body shop.

The voucher helps with the “healing process between police and the community,” gives drivers a needed break and gives local businesses a positive interaction with residents that can result in lifelong customers, Micgrogrants CEO Don Samuels said.

“It’s such a win-win-win,” Samuels said. “The only people that have any liability is us as Microgrants because we’re raising the money. And we live to do this, so even we’re winning.”

Prior Lake Police Chief Steve Frazer said the police department will be receiving 100 vouchers printed in Hmong, Spanish and English sometime this week. Officers can give them out at their discretion.

“The hope of it would be that we could have a positive contact with someone who needs the leg up,” Frazer said. “This is for the single mom, single dad, young person or fill-in-the-blank person.”

Samuels said a dimming bulb or broken light can be the difference between making it through the week and catching a bad break with lasting consequences.

“A lot of people are making decisions between things like groceries and getting that light fixed, constantly living in fear that they next time they get pulled over, they’ll get a ticket,” Samuels said.

The project has received regional and national support following features by the Washington Post and NBC News. Samuels said a recent donation from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation allowed the program to grow from 20 Twin Cities police departments to almost 60 since January.

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