The Austin Police Department released dash cam video from the moment one of their officers nearly passed out behind the wheel after being exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide inside his Ford patrol vehicle. This comes as the Austin Police Association said several similar incidents have happened including two in the last 24-hours.
In the video you hear the conversation between Sergeant Zachary LaHood and another person talking about his symptoms. “I told you I can't smell right? Can you hop in my driver’s seat and see if you can smell?"
In the 20 minute video you can only hear what's going on, “I just need fresh air. My head, started having headaches, I can't read and then like what the f*** man, and then I hit the curb over here,” LaHood said to another man.
Sgt. LaHood was taken to the hospital where tests revealed high levels of carbon monoxide in his body.
Ken Casaday is with the Austin Police Association, “He's had several issues that he's dealing with that are life-altering and also career threatening,” he said.
Since the incident, APD reported several more officers have been exposed and treated for carbon monoxide after being in their Ford patrol units. Shortly after Sgt. LaHood's poisoning, APD installed carbon monoxide detectors. But Casaday said it’s a temporary fix that really isn't working.
An officer was tested after his alarm went off and had double to triple the amount of carbon monoxide he should have had in his system. “One of our biggest fears is that these alarms aren’t picking up small amounts and our officers are being slowly poisoned over time because they are in those cars every day,” he said.
Among other suggestions, Casaday said the city is debating on pulling the cars when alarms go off and having patrol officers use detective cars; detectives would then have rental cars.
Patrol officers are also being told to keep their windows rolled down.
“We wear several pounds of equipment, ballistic vests, it's extremely hot and now we're being asked to roll our windows down, so I am not sure that's the fix,” Casaday said.
Casaday said while he is content right now with the city's response if they don't fix it within the next couple of weeks they will take action. “I don't know how you can even ask people to go out and use these vehicles, it is unsafe, its proven officers have been tested, and we are at the point to where we shouldn't even be asking officers to use these vehicles. If the city can't fix this, we are going to encourage officers not to come to work, I mean it will be that bad,” he said.
Both Ford and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the Ford Explorer model years 2011-2015. Sgt. LaHood has filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company.