The City of Austin is pulling all Ford Interceptor SUVs off the streets—effective Saturday morning. This is in response to the dozens of vehicles found to be leaking carbon monoxide fumes and sickening officers.
"I stand here confident that we're making the right decision today based on what we know,” said Interim APD Chief Brian Manley.
Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, shoulder to shoulder with the interim city manager, announced he will pull the fleet of 397 ford interceptor SUVs out of service.
"You want your family members to be safe and I've said from the day I took over and before this is my family,” said Manley.
Manley reports since February of this year officers have reported 69 incidents of carbon monoxide leaks. 20 police officers have had carbon monoxide detected in their blood. Three remain off duty because of the side effects from exposure.
With 61 percent of the fleet gone, Manley says officers will now double up in the department's remaining 206 black and white sedans.
Supervisors will drive fully-equipped unmarked vehicles from other units.
"We will still have the exact same officers on duty on any given night they will merely be riding double instead of riding in individual vehicles,” said Manley.
Manley says he will track response time which he says will be impacted by this change. He says at least the department is going into this at a time where violent crime is down.
"We frequently say that a deterrent of crime is a visible police presence so yes there will be less of a police presence because we will be doubled up and have less marked units out there. But for those criminals who think this might be an opportunity to take advantage of the circumstances that we're in remember we have a new fleet of unmarked vehicles that will be out in the community as well on patrol that are not readily available as police cars,” said Manley.
The switchover begins on Saturday morning and is set to be complete on Monday.
Interceptor SUVs will remain out-of-service until city leaders are satisfied that the problem can be solved with repairs.
"I stand here confident that we're doing the right thing and I pray for a speedy and full recovery of our officers that have been impacted,” said Manley.
Police are not the only ones affected by this. The city has an additional 42 Ford SUVs spread out in eight other departments. Out of those, four detectors have gone off. None of the city employees who used the vehicles had carbon monoxide in their blood.