Why police departments are installing carbon monoxide detectors in cruisers

Photo courtesy Niskayuna PolicePhoto courtesy Niskayuna Police

By Kristin Schultz

Daily Gazette

Some local police departments as a precautionary measure are installing carbon monoxide detectors in their Ford Explorer Police Interceptor Utility cruisers.

Police departments from California to Massachusetts have, in recent months, reported officers being overcome by the colorless, odorless gas that built up in their vehicles’ cabins, resulting in the officers losing control and crashing the vehicles.

Many local departments have the Explorers in their fleets, and while there have been no reported incidents locally, authorities are not taking any chances.

The source of the carbon monoxide is unknown, but Ford Motor Co. has placed blame on the companies that customize the vehicles for police use. Holes are drilled in parts of the vehicles to run wires for emergency lights and other equipment.

Ford is committing to making any repairs to the air conditioning systems and checking engine codes for issues with exhaust manifolds. It said in its statement that it will cover the cost of “specific repairs in every Police Interceptor Utility that may have this concern, regardless of age, mileage or aftermarket modifications made after purchase.”

Metro Ford services area fleets, including Niskayuna and Rotterdam.

In Niskayuna, Deputy Police Chief Michael Stevens recently told the Public Safety Committee that, upon inspection, all the town’s Explorers appear to be safe, and any holes drilled as part of the customization process have been filled with grommets.

Stevens said he also consulted with other departments in the area and beyond and is working to purchase carbon monoxide detectors for each of the Explorers. The detectors are battery-operated and designed to last for two years.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous in concentrations at or greater than 200 parts per million. The detector Stevens is considering sounds an alert at 35 ppm and sounds a different alarm at 200 ppm.

Each detector costs around $120, but Stevens has contacted the village of Scotia and the town of Rotterdam to explore purchasing them in bulk, to lower the price.

“We’ve had no incidents, fortunately, at this point,” Scotia Police Chief Pete Frisoni said.

The village fleet includes two Explorers, and Scotia is in the process of purchasing carbon monoxide detectors “as a precaution.”

Rotterdam police have not had any issues either, but like Scotia and Niskayuna, they are taking measures to minimize risk.

Lt. Jeffrey Collins said the department’s five Explorers, which represent about half of the total fleet, were tested by Rotterdam Fire District No. 2 at several different times over the past week, and no carbon monoxide was detected.

“We’re going to install carbon monoxide detectors just to be safe,” Collins said. “Anything that risks officer safety, we want to deal with as soon as possible.”

The city of Schenectady has six Explorers in its fleet, and Sgt. Matt Dearing echoed Frisoni’s comments, saying that although there have been no issues with the vehicles that he is aware of, carbon monoxide detectors were installed within the past month.

“We’ll continue to monitor what’s going on with Ford and take the necessary steps,” Dearing said.