Carbon monoxide detectors installed in Chatham Co. Sheriff's Office vehicles

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Police departments and sheriff's offices around the country are taking matters into their own hands, investing in carbon monoxide detectors for their Ford Explorers.

This amid the National Highway Traffic Administration investigation that includes all Ford Explorers - from 2011 to 2017- with more than 2,700 complaints of exhaust and possible carbon monoxide leaking into the SUV.

This includes both police and non-police vehicles. Our WTOC vehicle even falls within the model being investigated. So far, an official recall hasn't been issued, but some businesses and departments aren't waiting around.

In fact, the Chatham County Sheriff's Office has installed carbon monoxide detectors in all 30 of their sheriff vehicles.

"When it prevents an accident or an officer from getting hurt or running into another vehicle, that's just common sense," said Chatham County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Billy Freeman.

Chief Deputy Freeman says he and the sheriff made the decision to spend a total of $600 on detectors after reports began to surface about possible carbon monoxide leaking into the SUV. Video from 2015 shows a California police officer crossing several lanes of traffic before crashing.

The department has only had these vehicles for about six months and has never had any issues until this weekend.

"We had an officer that was doing an escort on Saturday. Her alarm went off. We immediately sidelined that vehicle and it's still sidelined," Chief Deputy Freeman said.

The deputy was not injured and the SUV is currently being inspected at a Ford dealership.

According to federal documents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, complaints have been filed for both consumer and police fleets citing concerns about exhaust odor.

Federal investigators believe the problem may be stemming from cracks in the exhaust manifold, which could release carbon monoxide in the engine bay and through the vents of the SUV.

But in July, Ford released a statement saying drivers of non-police vehicles shouldn't be worried.

"We have not found levels of any carbon monoxide in any Ford Explorer. While there have been reports of exhaust odors in some Explorers, those instances are unrelated to carbon monoxide which is odorless," said Hau Thai-Tang, the executive vice president of Product Development and Purchasing at Ford.

Ford officials believe the carbon monoxide issue is directly tied to police cruisers when they are customized by their department, drilling access holes in the rear of the vehicle for emergency lighting, radios, and other equipment.

But Chief Deputy Freeman disagrees.

"I've had our people check. There were no holes drilled anywhere in those vehicles to put the blue lights or anything else on it. As far as we are concerned, that is not the problem," he said.

The federal investigation is ongoing but many departments are not waiting around. The Chatham County Sheriff's Office joins dozens of departments around the country installing carbon monoxide detectors and having their vehicles inspected.

"They feel a lot safer, and I feel better and so does the sheriff," Chief Deputy Freeman said.

I've been told the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department will also be installing detectors in all of their SUV's. If you have one of the non-police vehicles and you've experienced problems with exhaust odor, Ford officials say you should take it to a Ford dealer.

The Chatham County Sheriff's Office has 30 Ford Explorers. So far, carbon monoxide has been detected in one. It has been sent to the dealership for inspection.

For Metro, there are 29 Ford Explorers. Right now, no problems have been reported.

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.