Employees pressure Ford to stop producing police vehicles

Auto manufacturer has produced law enforcement vehicles for nearly 70 years

Some Ford employees are calling for the company to stop building and selling police cars amid national -- and local -- unrest over police brutality and racism.

DEARBORN, Mich. – In the wake of recent movements for racial equality, there’s a push for Ford Motor Company to make a big change.

Some employees are asking the automaker to stop building and selling police vehicles.

Ford cars and SUVs have been a staple for law enforcement for the better part of a century, but as employees call on the company to reconsider that partnership, Ford executives said they can support change without changing sales or production.

First reported Wednesday by automotive website Jalopnik, as many as 100 Ford employees called for the automaker to stop making vehicles for police departments.

In the letter, employees cite images of officers in Ford police vehicles driving through crowds of protestors and deploying chemical agents. The Ford emblem can be clearly seen in the footage of George Floyd’s death.

Employees told Ford executives, “We are long overdue to ‘think and act differently’ on our role in racism.”

The auto giant has produced vehicles used by law enforcement since the 1950s. According to Ford’s website, its fleet of police vehicles included the Ford Explorer renamed the Interceptor, the F-150 and Expedition SUV -- each with safety and driving upgrades for officers. No police vehicle is more iconic than the Crown Victoria, which ceased production in 2011.

In response, Ford CEO Jim Hackett and President Bill Ford said Black Lives Matter and they are reviewing the company’s diversity, but sales of police vehicles will continue. In an email to employees, Hackett said the sale of police vehicles isn’t controversial and that “the issues plaguing police credibility have nothing to do with the vehicles they’re driving.”

He added that ending the sale of police vehicles would damage officers’ safety.

The full email Hackett sent to employees can be read below.

As we meet weekly in our Global Team Huddles, invariably there are questions that don’t get answered given the short time we have together or simply would be better addressed offline.

One question I want to address with this Huddle is whether Ford’s development of police vehicles is a good idea given the spotlight on social justice and police reform.

First, it should be clear both Bill Ford and I believe deeply that there is no room for the systemic repression and racism that have been exhibited by law enforcement encounters gone wrong. We’ve said clearly that Black Lives Matter and I am personally driving a review of our Diversity and Inclusion rituals, practices and behaviors. We do believe strongly that more transparency and accountability is required in police operations.

Second, we also believe the first responders that protect us play an extraordinarily important role in the vitality and safety of our society. Our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and serve. But safety of community must be inclusive of all members and today, it is not.

Holding these two thoughts together in one’s mind is possible, but now there is tension. It’s our belief the recent issues surfacing from the George Floyd tragedy are bringing a very intensive and necessary spotlight on police training and reform. In fact, I sit on the Business Roundtable, an organization comprised of CEOs from America’s leading companies, which has committed its shared energy to the work on police training and reform.

All that said, I have received several emails from employees and others in the public, and have read comments in social media, imploring Ford to reconsider the production and sale of police vehicles. Given the environment, we must constantly make sure we are helping to make progress. After reflecting on this, I see two key lines of thought:

  1. It’s not controversial that the Ford Police Interceptor helps officers do their job. The issues plaguing police credibility have nothing to do with the vehicles they’re driving. In fact, as we imagine the future power of our connected vehicles, smarter Ford vehicles can be used to not only improve officers’ ability to protect and serve, but also provide data that can make police safer and more accountable. Just think, dating back to the Model T, Ford has more than 100 years in serving first responders and that leadership over the decades has been earned by co-developing our purpose-built vehicles and technologies with police and emergency agencies to make our vehicles the number one choice.
  2. By taking away our Police Interceptors, we would be doing harm to their safety and making it harder for them to do their job. Again, this is why, given our insights, new capabilities and leadership, I believe these unfortunate circumstances present Ford with an even greater opportunity to not only innovate new solutions but also leverage our unique position to support the dialogue and reform needed to create safer communities for all.

For these reasons we will do both: continue to be a powerful voice for Black Lives Matter, holding ourselves accountable for significant change, while also continuing to help keep communities safe by producing Police Interceptors and partnering with law enforcement in new ways to strongly support the safety for all members of society.

I do appreciate people speaking their mind to me on this issue – it helped me generate this note to explain why we are continuing our commitment to police forces all over the world in our trusted products.

Thank you for caring so deeply about the Company and our people, and for all you do for Ford.

About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.