SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The National Highway Safety Administration and ford are investigating high levels of carbon monoxide found in Ford Explorers after receiving 2,700 complaints of exposure to the gas nationwide.
“From what I understand these officers were tested, and they had double and triple the amount of carbon monoxide in their system they're supposed to have,” Ken Casaday with the Austin Police Association said.
The Austin, Texas police department has removed all Ford Explorers from its fleet after 62 workers reported carbon monoxide exposure over the past five months.
Ford says the vehicles used by law enforcement are actually called Police Intercept Utility vehiciles.
"There is a distinct difference between the Explorer and Police Intercept Utility. The Police Interceptor is purpose built for law enforcement needs, while the Ford Explorer is built for retail consumers. Drivers of Ford Explorers have no reason to be concerned," Ford released in a statement.
The SUV’s are still being used by many South Dakota law enforcement agencies.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol has about 80 of these vehicles in its fleet. The Sioux Falls Police Department has more than 60; both agencies are now taking precautions to make sure their officers are safe.
“I think the initial reaction was concern, we weren’t really sure if there was a problem or not, we hadn’t experienced anything like that in Sioux Falls, but as a precautionary measure we ended up installing carbon monoxide detectors in all of the cars,” Sioux Falls Police officer Sam Clemens said.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol also installed carbon monoxide detectors in all Police Interceptor Utility vehicles and made sure everyone was aware of the potential problem.
“They've also talked to police and sheriff's associations across the state as well so they know about it too,” South Dakota Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Tony Mangan said.
Both agencies say vehicle safety is a top priority for law enforcement.
“This is their work station, they spend all day here, so you've got officers that are in their car eight hours a day,” Clemens said.
“This is an important part of their job, so we want to make sure those vehicles are safe,” Mangan said.
Both the Sioux Falls Police Department and the South Dakota Highway Patrol have not noticed any major issues with carbon monoxide.
“We had three vehicles that had a carbon monoxide activation. The carbon monoxide detector said there was some issue, we weren't really sure why that happened,” Clemens said. “That's probably one of the big questions, but we worked with Ford and took those three in and had them resealed again and after they were resealed we didn't have any issues.”
Last week Ford announced it “will cover costs of specific repairs in every police interceptor utility that may have carbon monoxide concerns.” The company is also working to identify what may be causing the problem.
Clemens said while every department receives the same basic explorer shell from Ford, each department installs its own unique equipment. From the light bar, the back seat, the cage, electronics and more, every department is going to have a custom set up in its vehicles.