DESOTO, Texas - Ford Motor Company started to send investigators out this week to cities across the U.S. where police departments are reporting problems with carbon monoxide leaking into Explorer SUVs.
The vehicle maker says more than a dozen departments, including Austin and Galveston, have found modified Explorers for police equipment leaking CO into the cabin. Austin has parked nearly 400 SUVs and Galveston about 30.
But federal regulators are now also expanding their investigation into hundreds of complaints from civilian SUV Explorers made between 2011 and 2017.
Carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled, but the effects can range from dizziness to confusion to death. Police departments across North Texas are now taking extra precautions to make sure none of their officers fall ill too.
"I probably glance at it,” said DeSoto Police Officer Jessica Ryan. “I'd say probably every few minutes while I'm driving."
She is talking about the carbon monoxide detection card on the dashboard. It's an example of how police departments across the nation are addressing concerns of exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide leaking into the Ford Police Interceptor SUV.
"It is a little frightening,” Ryan said. “I'm not going to sit here and say it doesn't bother me at all, but I'm looking at this every time I turn my car on. The first thing I'm doing is looking at this card."
In the last five months, the Austin Police Department reported more than 60 officers filing worker's comp claims for carbon monoxide poisoning. The Department temporarily parked its fleet of more than 400 Ford Police SUVs before equipping them with carbon monoxide detectors like DeSoto PD.
"We do have 13 Explorers in the fleet. They are operated on a daily basis,” said DeSoto Police Sgt. Nick Bristow. “But none of our officers have been any complaints at all of any type of carbon monoxide issue."
The SUVs are not part of a recall, but Ford has sent five teams of investigators to different cities in response to the complaints. The company says "engineering teams continue working with law enforcement agencies in their communities to address carbon monoxide concerns in some Ford Police Interceptors."
Mesquite, Richardson, Irving, and Cedar Hill all use the SUVs, and the Fort Worth Police Department has the largest fleet with 250 in all. All of the departments say the SUVs now have carbon monoxide detectors. None has reported any officers becoming ill.
The DeSoto Police Department has ordered more permanent hard-wired detectors they want to stall until Ford can guarantee them the vehicles are safe without them.
The Fort Worth Police Department is so concerned that it canceled a recent delivery of 130 SUV's and decided to go with Dodge Chargers and Chevy Tahoes.