Ford: Al­ter­ations by po­lice caus­ing fumes

Austin po­lice hit worst by car­bon monox­ide fumes in Ford SUVs.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Tony Plo­het­ski tplo­het­ski@states­man.com

Ford Mo­tor Co. of­fi­cials on Tues­day con­tin­ued to blame mod­i­fi­ca­tions made by po­lice departments and out­side ven­dors as the likely cause of re­leases of car­bon monox­ide gas into the cabs of its Po­lice In­ter­cep­tor SUVs.

In con­fer­ence calls to up­date re­porters on the com­pany’s na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the prob­lem, Bill Gub­ing, Ford’s global chief en­gi­neer, said com­pany work­ers have sealed holes made while out­fit­ting the ve­hi­cles with var­i­ous pieces of equip­ment and that they have seen “a dra­matic change, a very vis­i­ble change if you are look­ing at the me­ters. We’ve had very pos­i­tive re­sults.”

He said Ford em­ploy­ees — work­ing at po­lice departments re­port­ing the is­sue na­tion­ally — have per­formed tests to help iden­tify sources of the car­bon mon-

ox­ide, and those tests con­tinue to lead them to leaky seals from mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

As ex­am­ples, com­pany of­fi­cials showed pho­to­graphs of the types of mod­i­fi­ca­tions that might re­sult in leaks, in­clud­ing strobe lights that are com­monly in­stalled near the rear li­cense plate

and ca­bles for bat­ter­ies that some­times run un­der­neath a ve­hi­cle.

“They have been rep­re­sen- tative of what we have seen in the field with the agen­cies re­port­ing concerns,” Gub­ing said.

In Austin, which has been iden­ti­fied as a na­tional epi­cen­ter for the is­sue and where po­lice have taken their en­tire fleet of 400 of the Ford ve­hi­cles off the street, offi- cials said Tues­day that they con­tinue work­ing with Ford and the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“This week, Ford has taken five of the city’s ve­hi­cles and be­gun work to de­tect prob- lems and ad­vise lo­cal dealer- ships on how to re­pair those prob­lems,” a city spokesman said Tues­day. “The city’s fleet will re­main out of ser- vice un­til we are cer­tain they are safe for our of­fi­cers and staff.”

The city has pre­vi­ously said it per­forms up­grades on the ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing ad­ding de­cals, but that the more sig­nif­i­cant mod­i­fi­ca­tions are done in a Ford fa­cil­ity in Sils­bee, north of Beau­mont.

The is­sue first arose in Austin in March, when Austin po­lice Sgt. Zachary LaHood be­came ill while driv­ing his SUV on pa­trol. In a video- tape, he is heard telling offi- cers that he al­most hit a bus and struck a curb be­fore he was able to stop.

In re­sponse, the city in­stalled car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors in each of its ve­hi­cles, trig­ger­ing dozens of alerts over the next four months. Sev­eral dozen offi- cers were treated at emer- gency rooms for pos­si­ble ex­po­sure to the poi­sonous gas, some of whom re­ported symp­toms.

Last month, amid mount- ing concerns, the city de­cided to halt the use of the SUVs, re­quir­ing the de­part­ment to pull cars from other units and, in some in­stances, re­quir­ing of­fi­cers to ride two per car un­til the is­sue is re­solved.

Austin Po­lice De­part­ment of­fi­cials said Tues­day they con­tinue to mon­i­tor any uptick in re­sponse times or crime be­cause of the change.

Other departments na­tion­ally have also had is­sues, but it re­mains un­clear why Aus-- tin’s prob­lems have been far more acute.

In re­cent days, three po­lice of­fi­cers in Auburn, Mass., were treated for pos­si­ble car­bon monox­ide ex­po­sure. The de­part­ment has since is­sued a state­ment say­ing that it be­lieves it has sealed holes that caused the prob­lem af­ter work­ing with Ford en­gi­neers.

The city re­ported that Ford worked with its de­part­ment to seal tail light wiring ar­eas and re­place rear spoiler clips. They also re­moved ex­te­rior af­ter­mar­ket emer­gency light­ing, ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports.

Austin of­fi­cials didn’t place an es­ti­mate on when the de­part­ment might re­turn the SUVs to ser­vice.

“We are work­ing with the Austin Po­lice De­part­ment to get their re­pairs done and get their ve­hi­cles on the street,” Gub­ing said. “That is our com­mit­ment to this ve­hi­cle and our cus­tomers.”

DEB­O­RAH CAN­NON / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

City em­ployee Joe Lan­g­ley re­moves a piece of equip­ment last month from a Ford SUV used by Austin po­lice that was de­com­mis­sioned over concerns about leak­ing car­bon monox­ide.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.