An Austin police sergeant nearly passed out early Saturday while driving a Ford Explorer that officials think might have released carbon monoxide gas into the passenger compartment, officials said.
The officer was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was later released. Authorities described the incident as a possible vehicle malfunction.
The incident happened just after midnight in Southwest Austin. The sergeant was not responding to a call at the time. He “felt the symptoms coming on and called for help,” interim Police Chief Brian Manley said.
Manley said he is now looking into buying carbon monoxide detectors for patrol units “until we can come to a resolution with Ford on this issue.”
“I am aware of the incident and concerned about the safety of our officers. We will be taking immediate steps to address this concern,” he said.
He said that in recent weeks, after learning of a possible issue involving police SUVs, the department had notified officers to be aware of the concern.
According to Austin police union President Ken Casaday, city mechanics had recently taken the vehicle out of service to determine whether it was releasing gases after other officers reported a suspicious odor. He said the cruiser was then placed back in service.
“This very well could have been a traffic fatality with the officer passing out behind the wheel,” Casaday said. “At a time when we are fighting an uptick in violent crime, this is just one more huge concern that officers have on a daily basis.”
The Ford SUVs have been under national scrutiny for the release of possible poisonous gas.
According to published reports, the issues concern Explorers made between 2011 and 2015, and gases are most likely to be released when the car is accelerating or when the air conditioning is on.
In one case that has received recent national attention, a Newport Beach, Calif., police officer claims he was severely injured when he crashed his patrol unit into a light pole. He has said medical doctors could find no other reason for the crash.