AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the next budget, the Austin Police Department will look to purchase other vehicles besides Ford Explorers to diversify their fleet after recent carbon monoxide leaks.
Forty-six repaired police SUVs are back on the street, after a fix to solve carbon monoxide leaks, around 10 percent of the original force. Since the summer, APD has been doubling up officers, but from now on more of them will ride solo. Highway Enforcement Command will get their vehicles first, returning borrowed cars from the investigative division.
It was a simple problem with serious side effects. The exhaust coming from the tailpipes didn’t clear the back of the vehicle. Two officers who got sick are still not on duty. Three others are on limited duty and Ford has made the fix according to APD.
“Instead of coming straight out and being underneath the bumper, they turned the tailpipe down allowing the exhaust to exit the backside of the unit,” said James Teague, the interim fleet division manager. He says Ford’s customer service flipped the tailpipes down, improved the seal on the back end of the SUVs, and installed carbon monoxide detectors near the front seats.
“This is the one that we’ve put in the vehicle from fleet to identify and collect data on if there is any carbon monoxide in the vehicle,” said Teague.
Earlier at a press conference, the city fleet director and Chief of Police Brian Manley said they’re looking at options to diversify the fleet in the next budget, but they couldn’t give any other details other than they’re looking for sedans or SUVs.
“We always test the market. We look at what’s available. There are always significant things we have to consider such as trunk space given all the electronics that go into police vehicles these days,” Manley said.
APD hopes to get all the vehicles on the street in three to four months.
Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, says “the officers have been waiting a long time for this day. We’re all excited to see the return of the Ford Interceptor vehicles.”
One other Texas department pulled all of its Explorers. Galveston police parked their 27 SUVs days after Austin announced it would stop using them. KXAN reached out to Galveston police Thursday to see if they are back on the streets but we have not heard back.