AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Police Department says it is committed to take action after six officers have reported carbon monoxide leaks in Ford Explorer patrol vehicles in the last six days. Police say the officers were all treated and released.
APD says since the department experienced its first exposure to carbon monoxide back in March, the department has been working on this issue.
“We have placed paper carbon monoxide detectors in all of our Ford utility vehicles. We have hardwired carbon monoxide detectors in all the vehicles, as well. We have also issued several safety, as well as training bulletins, providing our officers with additional instructions for prevention, detection, and the reporting of carbon monoxide leaks,” explained Assistant Chief Troy Gay, during a media briefing Tuesday afternoon.
But the assistant chief says he knows and understands that more needs to be done.
“The safety of our officers is paramount,” said Gay. “This is an issue that over my 30 years in law enforcement, that we have never faced an issue like this. We believe it is something that we do need to take immediate action.”
What that action looks like, however, has not yet been decided. The department says they are looking at short-term and long-term goals.
“We don’t have the specifics. This is something that no one is really facing to the same extent, and it’s going to take a lot of brainstorming. It’s going to take a lot of creative thinking. We don’t want to compromise the safety of our officers,” Gay said.
APD expects to have an update on the issue and their plans to work to resolve it in about a week.
“It is an important issue. We believe that our officers and their safety is of concern and I’m not going to try to play this down and say that they shouldn’t be concerned. But, we have put in all the measures today that we think that our officers are safe. We have the equipment in the vehicles to ensure that if there is a carbon monoxide leak, that the detector may go off. We’re asking the officers to immediately stop and report that,” Gay added.
Police say they are working with city management and fleet on the department’s replacement cycle, as well as their budget next year for vehicles.
APD also says they are working diligently with Ford and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration on this issue. Both of which are currently investigating the reports in states across the country.
In a statement Ford released to KXAN last month, the company said there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers and Police Interceptor Units, but they don’t believe it poses a safety risk. They also say odors can be caused by non-Ford modifications or repairs that weren’t properly sealed.