11 a.m. update: Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said he is now looking into buying carbon monoxide detectors for patrol units after an Austin police sergeant nearly passed out early Saturday while driving a vehicle that may have released the dangerous gas inside the cabin.
“I am aware of the incident and concerned about the safety of our officers. We will be taking immediate steps to address this concern,” Manley said.
The detectors would be used “until we can come to a resolution with Ford on this issue,” Manley said.
The chief said the sergeant “felt the symptoms coming on and called for help.”
He said in recent weeks, after learning of a possible issue involving police SUVs, the department had notified officers to be aware of the concern.
Earlier: An Austin police sergeant nearly passed out while driving a Ford Explorer that officials think may have released carbon monoxide gas into the passenger compartment, officials said Saturday.
The officer was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was later released after what authorities describe as a possible vehicle malfunction.
A police spokesman said the incident happened just after midnight in Southwest Austin. The officer was not responding to a call at the time.
“This very well could have been a traffic fatality with the officer passing out behind the wheel,” union president Ken 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.”
According to Casaday, city mechanics had recently taken the unit 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.
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, 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.