City of Austin stops delivery of dozens of police interceptors from Ford Motor Company

The City of Austin said it has stopped the delivery of dozens of police interceptors from the Ford Motor Company. Jennifer Walls an Interim Fleet Officer with the City of Austin said there’s a temporary hold on the order because of the ongoing carbon monoxide issue.

Wells said they want the extra time to look over all of the options.

“First and foremost is the safety of our employees and all options are on the table of how we achieve that.”

Wells said they ordered 133 of the SUVs approved from the 2017 budget and have already received 64 but put a temporary hold on the rest. Wells said they want to figure out how and why carbon monoxide is leaking inside, “We want all hands on the deck, NHSTS, us, Ford, to make sure we can take care of this problem,” she said.

Carbon monoxide detectors are now in all of the city's Ford Explorers. More than 40 of the Austin Police Department's Explorer's have alerted landing several officers in the hospital.

Ford Motor Company said it investigated but hasn't found any carbon monoxide issues due to the design of its police interceptors and went on to suggest modifications made to the vehicles can contribute to exhaust-related issues.

The City of Austin said police vehicles go through three phases of up-fitting.

This process starts at the Silsbee Ford Dealership where they make the back seat a prisoner transport area, and add lock modifications. The City of Austin Fleet is the next stop where bumpers and steel are added to the outside of the vehicle and decals are placed. The vehicle then goes to the CTM or the Communications and Technology Management Department.

This is where they add electronics and mounts including; radios, shotgun racks, emergency lighting and sirens, mobile data computers and mounts, dash cam and audio, battery to power the dash cam and audio.

But Wells said not all the SUVs alerting for carbon monoxide have been modified.

Four consumer versions have also had an alarm go off.

She said there's a technical service bulletin by Ford for this very issue. “They actually put that out to their vendors as a ‘what they're supposed to do when there's an indication of a problem in that arena.’”

According to the National Highway Transportation Administration or NHTSA, it's received hundreds of consumer complaints of exhaust problems in Ford Explorers.

Wells said the federal agency is coming to Austin to investigate this ongoing issue.

Ken Casaday is the President of the Austin Police Association and said he has an idea of what NHTSA will find. “There are other cases in other departments, there are civilian cases out there, several hundred, so I feel confident that this is not our department that is doing this, it's actually an issue with the car,” he said.

For now, the protocol remains if the alarm goes off the SUV is pulled from the fleet. But Casaday said this protocol is still exposing officers to the poisonous toxin.

"We've requested that there be better carbon monoxide test kits in the vehicle, right now the officers are getting ill then the alarm is going off, so we don't feel like what we have is sufficient.” 

He said it may come down to telling officers to refuse to get in these vehicles. “We feel like the entire fleet needs to be replaced and there's no reason to have this tit for tat with the city and Ford Motor Company. Let’s replace the fleet and we'll move to a different product and move on down the road,” Casaday said.