Centerville police install carbon monoxide detectors for cruisers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Police departments adding carbon monoxide detectors to cruisers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Concerns nationally have led several departments to pull their Ford Explorers.

At least one local police department has installed carbon monoxide detectors in its Ford Explorer cruisers after national concern about possible leaks.

Two other departments say they also are watching the situation and have raised awareness.

Police departments in more than a dozen states have expressed concerns about possible carbon monoxide leaks in Ford Explorers, according to a CBS News investigation.

Two-thirds of the Centerville Police Department cruisers are Ford Explorers. While the department has had no issues so far, officials have installed carbon monoxide detectors in all Explorers to monitor the situation.

Federal regulators are investigating reports that exhaust fumes were leaking into the passenger cabin of the vehicles, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it has received more than 2,700 complaints — many from civilians — leading to reports of at least 41 injuries and three crashes.

RELATED: Ford works with police agencies after cops sickened by fumes

Some police departments across the country have pulled their SUVs off the street in response to the leaks — Ford Explorer models comprise 48 percent of police cruisers nationwide.

John Davis, the community relations officer for the Centerville Police Department, said that they were alerted of the issue by community members who saw the story on the news. Citizens emailed the department about the issue, prompting the purchase of the carbon monoxide detectors.

RELATED: Five more Austin police officers treated for carbon monoxide poisoning from police vehicles

The detectors are no different from those used in houses, and Davis said that car-specific carbon monoxide detectors do not exist. They are placed near the driver’s-side headrest in each SUV, attached to a plastic protection barrier behind the window.

Davis stressed that the department will be monitoring the situation closely, as officers often use their cruisers as their day-long workspace.

“The thing everyone has to understand is, that’s their office,” Davis said. “That’s where they’re spending their entire day. That’s where they have their paperwork, and it’s essentially a rolling office.”

The Kettering police department has a fleet of 26 vehicles, 17 of which are Ford Explorers. The department said that they have had no issues so far, and they have not installed carbon monoxide detectors in the SUVs.

MORE: 1.3 million Ford SUVs target of expanding investigation into carbon monoxide leaks

Mike Giles is the mechanic supervisor at the Kettering Vehicle Maintenance Center, which performs routine checks on all of the city’s 400-plus vehicles. He said that Ford informed them of the potential issue about a month ago.

“We’re taking the problem that has come across from the manufacturer to heart,” Giles said. “We’ve researched it and have also talked to the police department. But as of right now, we haven’t experienced any of those problems yet.”

Giles said that until an incident occurs, the department will simply be asked to monitor the issue. If an issue were to occur, Giles said that the department would immediately shut down the vehicle and send it to Interstate Ford, the city’s cruiser provider, where the problem would be investigated.

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The NHTSA said in a report on Thursday that the leaks could be tied to “exhaust manifold cracks, which appear to present a low level of detectability, and may explain the exhaust odor.”

However, the federal agency also said that “no substantive data or actual evidence” has been found linking recent illnesses of police officers to carbon monoxide. Preliminary testing suggests “that CO levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios, although the significance and effect of those levels remain under evaluation,” the report said.

Giles said that it is often difficult to determine the specific cause of carbon monoxide issues in vehicles, as opposed to other maintenance problems.

“It’s kind of a needle in a haystack,” Giles said. “As far as exhaust leaks going up inside the cabin, that’s on a case-to-case basis. It could be an aftermarket thing or it could be a factory thing.”

RELATED: Feds expand investigation into exhaust fume leak inside Ford Explorers

Giles said that because of the obscurity of the leaks, each potential case would be handled differently.

“It’s pretty much on a case-to-case basis,” Giles said. “So if we have two 2017 SUVs out there running, only one may have this issue, if we ever have an issue.”

Dayton police said that they are aware of the issue and are monitoring it, but have had no issues so far. This news source has reached out to multiple other local police departments for comment.

In March, a police officer in Austin, Texas, drove off the road after becoming woozy from carbon monoxide poisoning. Eighteen Austin police officers have been tested and found to have elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their systems, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Three officers are not available for work as a result of carbon monoxide exposure.

From our Austin affiliate: Austin police pull all 400 Ford SUVs from patrol

The department has since pulled its Explorers off the street, as have other departments across the country. CBS News reported on Friday that Ford is considering a recall of the 2011-2017 models because of the reports.

“Safety is our top priority. We continue to investigate,” Ford said in a press release. “We have not found elevated levels of carbon monoxide in non-Police Ford Explorers. To address police customers who drive modified vehicles in unique ways, we are covering the costs of specific repairs in every Police Interceptor Utility that may have carbon monoxide concerns, regardless of modifications made after leaving Ford’s factory.”