Cop cash

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr and acting Jackson Police Chief Michelle Weber divide up cash donated by an anonymous group for officers to hand out to people caught red-handed doing the right thing throughout the holidays. Sheriff’s deputies and Jackson officers expect it will take several weeks to distribute the $30,000 this year.

The anonymous group that has given thousands of dollars around Christmas each year to local officers to hand out to deserving residents really upped the ante this year.

Marking the sixth year in a row that the Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson Police Department have received the anonymous gift, this is the biggest donation yet at more than $30,000.

Reached for the first time by the News&Guide, one of the donors said, “It means a lot to these guys to hand out a $100 bill instead of a citation.”

The motivation behind the donation, he said, is to increase the positive interactions the public has with law enforcement and spread holiday cheer.

The donation came in check form, and last Friday Sheriff Matt Carr and Acting Chief of Police Michelle Weber made a stop at the Bank of Jackson Hole to cash it. They separated the cash into holiday envelopes and passed them out to officers and deputies, who are now on the lookout for Good Samaritans or deserving citizens to reward with the Benjamins.

“Law enforcement is so thankful to have the support of these gracious donors to once again be able to spread Christmas cheer throughout our community,” Carr said.

People of all types have been given the money in the past. Sometimes officers will hand it out to pay for taxi rides home on New Year’s Eve or give it to people who were stopped for having outdated registration, with instructions to use the money to update their plates.

The donations have also gone to pay for victims of crimes to get a hotel room and to people who find themselves in a fender bender.

Sometimes it goes to those who have to work on Christmas or need a bus ticket.

One year the Jackson Police Department bought everyone’s breakfast at McDonalds, and the year before Teton County sheriff’s Lt. Lloyd Funk gave money to a man who was helping a stranger get unstuck from a snowbank.

Officers and deputies record each interaction, and sometimes it takes months to give out all of the cash. Last year officers were still handing it out in February. Some of the first cash handouts this year happened on Christmas Eve.

Weber, accompanied by Santa Claus, gave cash to someone in need at St. John’s Health and another person she knew she wanted to help even before law enforcement got the money.

This year 53 individuals contributed to the pool of do-gooder dough, though organizers weren’t sure initially if the practice would continue, given that 2020 has been a hard year financially due to COVID-19.

“It’s been a tough year for philanthropy, both the givers and receivers,” one contributor said.

But the group decided to keep the tradition going, because during the hardest years even one nice gesture and a little extra cash can make a big difference for someone.

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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