More local police departments installing CO detectors after Auburn scare

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – More police departments, including the three largest in Rhode Island, are installing carbon monoxide detectors in their vehicles after an Auburn police officer was overcome by fumes while driving.

An officer in Auburn, Massachusetts passed out behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer Wednesday and subsequently crashed. Six Auburn officers in total were treated at a hospital for exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide.

As a result, the department ordered CO monitors for all its cruisers.

The Providence Police Department purchased CO detectors in late June after hearing from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the nationwide investigation into the leaks, although at that point no local officers had been affected by the gas.

A photo of the detectors Providence purchased.

After the news in Auburn, several other departments have followed suit.

Major Rick Rathbun of the Warwick Police Department said that Warwick police ordered the same type of detector that Providence purchased, which plugs into the charging port in the dashboard. Rathbun said that despite having no CO problems with any of the vehicles yet, the department wanted to be proactive.

Major Todd Patalano of the Cranston Police Department told Eyewitness News that the department finished fitting all its vehicles with detectors on Thursday. Police in Woonsocket did the same.

The Rhode Island State Police also ordered CO monitors for all 62 of its Explorers, but reported that they have not had any problems yet.

Col. James Mendonca said the Central Falls Police Department operates 15 of the Explorers, and although CO emission tests on all of them were negative, the department is purchasing detectors as well.

And Mansfield’s Police Chief said on Twitter Friday that his department was installing detectors in its vehicles.

Ford announced on July 28 that it would pay for repairs to all Police Interceptor Utility Explorers “regardless of age, mileage or aftermarket modifications made after purchase.”

In a statement, the company said it believed the problems were occurring after the vehicles left the factory, when additional equipment for the police department receiving the vehicle was installed.

That work is typically done by a local firm, to each police department’s individual specifications, and includes items like the lights and storage trunks for securing police gear inside the vehicle.

In the meantime, police departments are also reminding their officers to keep windows open for ventilation.