APD carbon monoxide issues prompts law enforcement agencies across state to take precautions

It's a nationwide safety movement among law enforcement stemming from an issue here in Austin.

“The departments don't want anything bad to happen to the officers protecting the community.”

Multiple law enforcement agencies across the state are taking note of a carbon monoxide issue plaguing the Austin Police Department. Charley Wilkison is with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, he said he's never seen anything like this in his career, “We know that it's unsafe and we know how unsafe it is and we know that on the outside they could die in that unit. It's insane that we have this kind of situation,” he said.

In Harris County a sheriff’s senior deputy said they have installed carbon monoxide detectors in all of their Ford Explorers and are adding temporary ones in all the Ford Interceptors. Senior Deputy Thomas Gilliland said even their new Ford units will come standard equipment including a carbon monoxide detector. 

“It beats the alternative of not knowing what level it is. It's good for them to put it in there,” Wilkison said.

The San Antonio Police Department took precautions back in April installing disposable carbon monoxide detectors. SAPD is also telling its officers to really pay attention when their patrol units are idling with windows shut. This is partly because of an incident back in March when APD Sgt. Zachary LaHood almost passed out behind the wheel he was taken to the hospital where high levels of the poisonous toxin was found in his body.

Sgt. LaHood is still out on leave and has filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company.

The attorney representing LaHood according to his website is also representing dozens of consumers and another police officer from Newport Beach who lost consciousness driving his patrol car and crashed into a tree.

The Houston Police Department said safety of officers is a priority so they are doing random safety checks on their more than 400 Ford Interceptors. Wilkison praised the agencies not having issues for taking precautions; he said having safe units for officers shouldn't even be a question.

“The least we can do for these officers across Texas specifically in Austin is to make sure that the unit they use to deliver law enforcement to the community save lives, protect businesses, all that that's the least we can do,” he said.

FOX 7 reached out to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA regarding the investigation.

It sent a statement saying:

“Safety is our top priority. NHTSA is in contact with the Austin police department and is actively investigating to determine if this issue is related to a potential safety defect. Agency has opened an investigation into the complaints involving 2011-2015 Ford Explorers whose owners are experiencing exhaust fumes or strange odors in the cabin. The agency is reviewing all available data and will take appropriate action as warranted.”

It went on to link the current investigation of the Ford Explorer in question.

Ford said earlier in the week the Interceptors are modified by police which could be the cause of the exhaust related issues  The City of Austin confirmed NHTSA is coming to Austin to inspect those SUV’s that have alerted to carbon monoxide.