Local police departments taking steps following carbon monoxide scares

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Many local police departments are paying closer attention to their fleets following national concerns of carbon monoxide leaks in vehicles. The concern surrounds fumes seeping inside Ford Explorers, making some officers sick.

Ford officials have said there could be dangerous leaks in some of the vehicles that have been modified for police use, which could cause carbon monoxide to enter an SUV's cab.

The news has many Kentucky police departments evaluating their next move. WKYT checked with several police departments. Many of them had Ford Explorers in their fleets.

The city of Lexington has 41 Ford Explorers in its fleet; 34 belong to the police department.

"We determined that there was an issue back in June," said Wanda Kean. Kean is the Deputy Director of Fleet Services.

"We decided to err on the side of caution since we recognized that a lot of our police vehicles, in particular, are used as a home fleet, meaning that families and pets also travel in them."

She says that back in March, one of their police commanders began complaining about headaches and nausea. They had the Ford checked out, and the dealership made repairs to the exhaust.

Even though Ford had not issued a technical service bulletin at that time, they decided to put carbon monoxide strips in their vehicles.

"With just one person indicating that he thought there might be a problem, that in and of itself was enough for us to say we need to do something. We need to be proactive," Kean said.

Over the past several weeks, with more carbon monoxide scares involving police officers nationally, the department decided to take it a step further. They are all now equipped with carbon monoxide detectors.

"What is really troublesome is that someone might be experiencing these symptoms and not know that's what it is; That's why it is called the silent killer because this can go on for weeks and weeks and not really know."

In Nicholasville, the Ford Explorer is the primary service vehicle for the city's police fleet. At least 20 of their SUVs are Explorers.

"It's probably 50 percent of our fleet," said Officer Kevin Grimes. "2,700 is a lot of complaints by law enforcement agencies across the nation. At that point, it became alarming to me, and I felt it needed to be addressed. So, I took it to our supervisors and have talked to some other agencies here in central Kentucky who are doing some things."

Grimes said the department wants to make sure whatever vehicle the officers have is the safest it can be.

"This (police vehicle) is these officer's office. 8 or 10 hours a day they spend in these cars," Grimes said.

The Nicholasville Police Department is talking about installing carbon monoxide detectors.

"It can only benefit. It's such a minimal cost if it can save an officer's life," Grimes said.

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