Ford: Alterations by police causing fumes
Austin police hit worst by carbon monoxide fumes in Ford SUVs.
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.”
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.