Carbon monoxide poisoning threatens local law enforcement in their own vehicles

The carbon monoxide detector sits somewhere on the officer's dashboard where it is always in the line of sight. (Image: WTVC)

Their task is to serve and protect but local law enforcement is finding themselves in need of protection.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputies and Chattanooga Police Officers driving Ford Explorer Police Interceptor's face the threat of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

"We're aware that several other law enforcement agencies throughout the nation have had some problems with the carbon monoxide poisoning," Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesperson, Matt Lea, told NewsChannel 9.

On Wednesday, an Auburn, MA police officer fell asleep at the wheel of his 2017 Ford Explorer Police Interceptor and hit another vehicle.

According to Sergeant Scott Mills of the Auburn Police Department, that officer was taken to the hospital where he was treated for extreme Carbon Monoxide exposure.

Five other Auburn officers tested positive for elevated Carbon Monoxide levels.

One of the five was also taken to the hospital for treatment.

Matt Lea says the Hamilton County Sheriff's office hasn't received any complaints about Carbon Monoxide in its 33 Ford Explorer Police Interceptors but it is airing on the side of caution.

"We always are concerned about our people. Obviously, they're our greatest asset so we've installed carbon monoxide detectors in the cars," Lea said.

The detectors are about the size of a credit card and include a small tablet that Lea explains contains a "a filament that when the chemical senses a higher or abnormal amount of carbon monoxide it will turn colors."

The detector is placed near the dashboard of the vehicle so it is always in the officer's line of sight.

The Chattanooga Police Department is also installing Carbon Monoxide detectors in its Ford Explorer Interceptors.

Ford issued a statement, saying that they are actively investigating the issue:

Ford Motor Company is taking action to help address the concerns of first responders driving Ford Police Interceptor Utility vehicles. Drivers of regular, non-police Ford Explorers have no reason to be concerned.
While there have been reports of exhaust odors in some regular Explorers, those instances are unrelated to reports of carbon monoxide described by some police departments. If a vehicle has such an odor, customers should bring it to a Ford dealer to address that issue.
Addressing specific concerns from Ford police customers, Hau Thai-Tang, executive vice president, Product Development and Purchasing said, “There is nothing we take more seriously than providing you with the safest and most reliable vehicles.”
Ford’s investigation into this issue is ongoing. However, the company has discovered holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some Police Interceptor Utilities that had police equipment installed after leaving Ford’s factory.
When a police or fire department routinely install customized emergency lighting, radios and other equipment, they have to drill wiring access holes into the rear of the vehicle. If the holes are not properly sealed, it creates an opening where exhaust could enter the cabin.
To address these concerns, Ford is announcing today it will cover the costs of specific repairs in every Police Interceptor Utility that may have this concern, regardless of age, mileage or aftermarket modifications made after purchase.
Ford will:
1. Check and seal off the rear of the vehicle where exhaust can enter
2. Provide a new air conditioning calibration that brings in more fresh air during heavy acceleration typical of police driving
3. Check for engine codes that could indicate a damaged exhaust manifold.
Ford will continue investigating all reports from its police customers, including the exhaust manifold issue referenced by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
If a customer believes their vehicle may be experiencing an issue, they should bring it to a Ford dealer, who is equipped to assess the vehicle and address the problem. Customers also can call a dedicated hotline at 888-260-5575.
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