AUSTIN, Texas – A Texas police department announced that it is pulling nearly 400 police cars from the department’s fleet over concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expanded an investigation into the Ford Explorer and Ford Police Interceptor models after receiving nearly 2,700 complaints about the 2011 to 2017 Ford Explorer models.
The agency announced the expanded investigation after learning that the Ford Police Interceptor version is experiencing exhaust manifold cracks.
The Interceptor is a version of the Ford Explorer that has been modified for police departments.
In 2015, a California police officer passed out while behind the wheel of his Interceptor and crashed into a tree at 55 miles per hour.
In March, an Austin, Texas police officer narrowly avoided a crash when he was overcome by fumes. He has sued the automaker, and several other officers from other states are talking to his attorney about their own cases.
“It’s only a matter of time before an officer or member of the public gets killed,” said Brian Chase, an attorney representing the case, told CNN.
Ford says it is investigating the complaints, but had not found evidence of a problem in the past.
“We have investigated and not found any carbon monoxide issue resulting from the design of our Police Interceptor Utility Vehicles,” Ford said in a statement earlier this month. “We know police modify these vehicles, which can contribute to exhaust-related issues. We have provided instructions to help seal these modifications and are ready to inspect any vehicles with this concern. Also, we will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do.”
As a result of the investigation, the Austin Police Department announced that it is pulling nearly 400 Ford Interceptors from its fleet.
“The safety of our officers and employees is our number one priority,” said city spokesman Bryce Bencivengo.
Officials with the Oklahoma City Police Department say they have had no carbon monoxide incidents within the department.