Portland Police keeping Ford Explorers despite concerns

Other police departments experiencing issues with cars

A Portland police patrol car. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The Portland Police Bureau is not taking its Ford Explorer patrol vehicles out of service despite exhaust leaks in similar vehicles that are being investigated by the federal government and have caused problems with other law enforcement agencies.

The Austin Police Department in Texas pulled all of its Explorers from service last week after discovering measurable levels of carbon monoxide in 60 of the vehicles and 20 of their officers. Three of their officers had not returned to work by Monday.

“The number and severity of cases has reached a critical mass. With the growing number of cases and the ongoing safety concerns we consider it the most prudent action to take these vehicles out of service,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley wrote to Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council last Friday.

But a Portland police spokesman says the Austin department’s Explorers are equipped with an optional rear compartment air conditioner that is not on the local ones.

“There is no plan to take our patrol vehicles offline,” Sgt. Chris Burley, the Portland bureau’s public information officer.

A spokesman for the Austin Mayor’s Office confirmed their Explorers are equipped with optional rear compartment air conditioners, but could not say if they are the cause the leaks.

Ford Explorers are large sport utility vehicles that have become popular with law enforcement agencies across the country in recent years, including the Port of Portland. Officially called Police Interceptor Utilities, they are equipped with a twin turbocharged 3.5-liter V6. It is not clear why the optional air conditioning unit would cause exhaust gases to leak into the vehicles. Some news reports have suggested that cracks have been found in exhaust manifolds on some of the vehicles. The turbochargers are driven by exhaust gases to increase power.

Ford said last week that it believes the problem to be largely confined to police vehicles, almost all of which have holes drilled through various parts of them for equipment mounts, possibly allowing allowing fumes to seep in. The manufacturer said that it will cover the costs of repairs in all police Explorers, regardless of modifications.

“Ford’s investigation into this issue is ongoing. However, the company has discovered holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some Police Interceptor Utilities that had police equipment installed after leaving Ford’s factory,” Ford said.

The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration announced Monday it is expanding its investigation to include 1.33 million Explorers manufactured from 2011 to 2017. The announcement came after more than 2,700 complaints were registered. According to the NTHSA, the leaks may be linked to three crashes and 41 injuries, including an Austin police officer who allegedly passed out and hit a tree.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.