More newspaper coverage of PBA´s efforts to ensure members´ safety

More newspaper coverage of PBA’s efforts to ensure members’ safety
PBA, 2003-06-20

A reporter from The Leader in Corning wrote an article for the June 20 edition of the newspaper about the PBA’s latest actions regarding Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors. To read the story, click on the following link or refer to the text below.

Cops urged to stay safe


HORSEHEADS | Dangers associated with Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers have prompted the state police union leader to urge troopers to avoid non-emergency stops along busy highways.

Daniel M. De Federicis, president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State Troopers, said Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars are considered death traps because of their tendency to explode from rear-impact collisions.

The deaths of 16 police officers nationwide since 1983, including New York State Trooper Robert Ambrose on Dec. 19, 2002, have been attributed to the unsafe Crown Victoria, De Federicis said.

"With the death toll now at 16, burning Crown Victorias have caused more deaths than the infamous, fiery Ford Pintos," he said. "The PBA is not suggesting to our members that they not help disabled motorists, respond to car accidents or assist with other highway emergencies, nor is the PBA proposing the elimination of enforcement efforts."

In an attempt to gain proper attention from the Division of State Police, De Federicis said the PBA is making the unprecedented move of advising officers to avoid non-emergency traffic stops on highways that would expose the Ford Crown Victorias to high speed traffic and possibly deadly fires.

"The PBA is telling its members, troopers and supervisors alike, to reject the state police’s illegal imposition of ticket quotas and to ensure they put their own safety first," De Federicis said in a recent statement.

Vincent Hill, New York State Police Troop E union delegate in Painted Post, said he supports the stand being taken by De Federicis to protect troopers. But he said service will not be compromised.

"We are not going to deny anyone assistance. We won’t pass anybody by. Danger is an inherent part of our job, and we’re just basically going to be more careful and alert," Hill said. "I’m behind De Federicis 100 percent and support what he’s trying to do for all our members."

Retrofitting the Crown Victorias with a plastic shield has been suggested by the Ford Motor Co. to prevent fires from rear-end collisions. Plastic fuel-tank shields currently are scheduled to be installed on approximately 350,000 Crown Victorias used in the United States as police cruisers.

All seven Crown Victorias at the Painted Post State Police barracks have been retrofitted with plastic shields, Hill said.

But the deaths of four more police officers in May occurred in rear collision, fuel-fed explosions with Crown Victoria’s retrofitted with the plastic shield, De Federicis said.

"We have said all along that the plastic shields were a good start, but very limited in their effectiveness. We unfortunately have two more state troopers who burned to death to prove our point," De Federicis said in a recent statement. "We have come to the stark realization that Ford profits come first and police officers are a distant second, and the Division of State Police has been asleep at the wheel on this issue all along. We are outraged that our troopers, who face enough potential sources of death every day, can depend only on themselves to minimize and additional exposure to danger."

None of the 12 Crown Victorias at the Horseheads State Police barracks have had any safety features installed, said station Commander Michael McDarby.

McDarby also said he supports the association’s stance but service will not be compromised.

"Our president is fighting for what he thinks is right. I support both the Division of State Police and my PBA president, and I hope both parties can put this behind us," McDarby said. "We will never compromise the safety of the public, and we will never give less than 100 percent to the public."

Rather than installing plastic shields that have been proven ineffective, a better solution would be to install fuel bladders inside the gas tanks, Hill said.

"The plastic shields were designed to keep sharp edges from puncturing the fuel tank in a rear-end collision, but they are simply not adequate. There are other features out there, including the fuel bladder, that do the job," Hill said. "Cost is always an issue. … We feel that cost is a big part of this issue."

Plastic shields cost about $30 to install, and fuel bladders cost approximately $1,500 to install.

It would cost about $2 million to $3 million to install fuel bladders, plastic shields and a fire suppression system in all 800 Crown Victorias being used by New York State Police, De Federicis said Thursday.

"How much is needed to save the lives of these officers?" he asked. "It’s a very, very, small price to pay."

Currently, just six Crown Victorias in the state have been retrofitted with fuel bladders, with one of them being used at the Painted Post barracks.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has called for safer vehicles for patrols.

"This is a no-brainer. No one should have to explain how important it is to make sure our police officers have cars that are safe. We know that there’s a problem, and now we need to figure out what we need to do to solve it," Schumer said. "If that means changing cars so that a different model is used, so be it. Time is of the essence."

Several lawsuits against the Ford Motor Co. are pending from rear-end collision deaths in Crown Victorias, De Federicis said.

A Ford spokeswoman has said the Crown Victoria is a "safe and effective vehicle for police work."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in October the Crown Victoria exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety.