Officials from the Evansville Police Department and Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office said they are keeping a close eye on carbon monoxide-related issues being reported on the Ford Explorer police interceptor vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expanded its investigation into 1.3 million Ford Explorers made between 2011 and 2017 over carbon monoxide issues.
The expanded investigation follows thousands of complaints being filed by owners of the Ford Explorer, including those who drive them as police patrol vehicles. Most notably, the police department in Austin, Texas, is in the process of removing Ford Explorers from its fleet.
The Ford Explorer police interceptor vehicle is the most popular law enforcement vehicle in the country.
Locally, the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office has more than 20 Ford Explorers in its fleet. The Evansville Police Department has a half dozen. Police K9s and their handlers frequently use the larger patrol vehicles. VCSO has more Ford Explorers because they feature all-wheel drive, said Sheriff Dave Wedding.
“Any time you have an odorless substance, it’s very scary,” Sheriff Wedding said. “With our climate that we have here, our vehicles are pretty much running all the time.”
Neither EPD nor VCSO have reported any carbon monoxide-related issues with any of the Ford Explorers in either agency’s fleet. Two VCSO sedans and one SUV have had catalytic converters replaced after deputies complained of smelling exhaust in the cabin, Sheriff Wedding said.
The NHTSA has learned that the police interceptor version of the Explorer is experiencing cracks in the exhaust manifold that can be hard to detect, according to federal documents.
“It’s definitely something that a lot of agencies are keeping an eye on,” said EPD Sgt. Jason Cullum. “You’re not just talking about the exposure to the fumes. Some of the agencies when that has happened, the officers have been involved in crashes. It’s not the occupant of the SUV, it’s the motorists around them.”
Despite not having any reported issues with any of the vehicles in their respective fleets, both EPD and VCSO have warned patrol officers and deputies to be wary of the potential issues. The sheriff’s office has taken it a step further, however, by installing carbon monoxide detectors and alarms in the Explorers in their fleet.
Sgt. Cullum said the police department has had internal discussions about installing similar equipment. Of the half dozen Explorers in their fleet, three of them are used by police K9s and their handlers. The remaining Explorers are used by the department’s crime scene and school crossing guard units so they aren’t used as much, Sgt. Cullum said.
“Right now we’re not committed to any action steps at this point. We want to see what some of the other agencies are doing,” Sgt. Cullum said.