The Austin Police Association said two more APD Officers were in the hospital Wednesday night being tested for carbon monoxide poisoning. This comes on a day FOX 7 heard from the City of Austin and the Ford Motor Company regarding the issue.
Jennifer Walls is the Interim Fleet Officer for the City of Austin, “We don't know where the problem is coming from, we want to stress that just to make sure the employees aren't injured.”
Walls said carbon monoxide detectors is their first line of defense and can now be found in more than 400 of their Ford Explorers. “We have our protocol in place that when the monitors go off in the vehicles we take the vehicle out of service and send it to Ford,” she said,
This protocol stems from an incident back in March when Austin Police Sergeant Zachary LaHood was driving his patrol vehicle and almost passed out behind the wheel.
He was taken to the hospital where they found high levels of carbon monoxide in his system.
This issue seems to be plaguing Austin Police Officers the most.
More than 40 of their Explorers which go through multiple levels of up-fitting have alerted exposing dozens of officers to the poisonous toxin something the Austin Police Association said is unacceptable, Ken Casaday is the President, “So it's not safe enough for civilian riders, why's it safe enough for a police officer, are we a bunch of guinea pigs, what's the deal here? It might get to a point to where we have to tell our officers to show up to work and refuse to get into those vehicles,” he said.
Ford Motor Company addressed the issue Wednesday.
They said they looked over their design of this vehicle in question and released this statement:
"We have investigated and not found any carbon monoxide issue resulting from the design of our police interceptor utility vehicles. We know police modify these vehicles, which can contribute to exhaust-related issues. We have provided instructions to help seal these modifications and are ready to inspect any vehicles with this concern."
The City of Austin said it's not just the police SUV's that are having the carbon monoxide issue, some unmodified explorers have also alerted. “Those are vehicles that are off the line that any consumer would have and we've had four carbon monoxide detectors go off in those vehicles as well,” Walls said.
Walls said the city is working with Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate and can hopefully find the problem. But Casaday said he has the solution and it's leaving Ford out of it.
“To be quite honest with you, I don't trust them any longer to look at the vehicles and try to figure out what the problem is. I think it's just time to part ways with Ford Motor Company and move on and maybe they'll think twice when they have issues with their vehicles,” he said.
Ford told FOX 7 they reached out to APD earlier this week to arrange for them to inspect those SUV’s they are concerned with, but as of Wednesday they hadn’t heard back. Wells said NHTSA which is a private government organization is coming to Austin within the next week to investigate.