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Employees Ask Ford to Reconsider Building Police Vehicles; CEO Says Sales Will Continue

Employees Ask Ford to Reconsider Building Police Vehicles; CEO Says Sales Will Continue
  • in the wake of demonstrations following george floyd's death at the hands of minneapolis police officers in may, ford ceo jim hackett issued a statement denouncing systemic racism.
  • ford employees responded by saying the automaker should look at its own role in the system, including a potential end to building police cars.
  • in his response—reproduced below—hackett said, "it is not controversial that the ford police interceptor helps officers do their job," and emphasized his belief that connected ford vehicles can generate data that can actually help make police more accountable.

    ford has been the subject of false stories about its support of the black lives matter movement for years. back in 2016, snopes debunked untrue posts about how the automaker donated a million dollars—sometimes the number given was as high as $100 million—to the cause, but this was a situation where people didn’t understand the difference between the charitable ford foundation and the car company.

    nevertheless, it is true that executives at ford (the automaker) have spoken out against systemic racism, especially with the current increase in anti-racism protests across the country. in early june, ford executive chairman bill ford and ceo jim hackett wrote a letter that said, in part, "we know that systemic racism still exists despite progress that has been made. we cannot turn a blind eye to it or accept some sense of 'order' that's based on oppression."

    but speaking out against the system and changing how you do business are two different things, and they are coming to a head inside the company. as was originally reported by jalopnik, more than 100 employees have now signed on to a letter that calls on ford to reevaluate how it sells vehicles to police departments in the u.s.

    the letter reads, in part: "on may 25, 2020, george floyd was murdered by minneapolis police, alongside a ford police interceptor. days later, police officers drove ford police interceptors into crowds of protesters in new york city and los angeles. during these past weeks, our vehicles have been used to deploy chemical weapons banned by the geneva convention.

    "throughout our history, the vehicles that ford employees design and build have been used as accessories to police brutality and oppression. we know that while many join, support, or supply law enforcement with good intentions, these racist policing practices that plague our society are historic and systemic—a history and system perpetuated by ford for over 70 years—ever since ford introduced the first ever police package in 1950. as an undeniable part of that history and system, we are long overdue to 'think and act differently' on our role in racism."

    there’s a reason this pressure is being put on dearborn, since about two-thirds of police vehicles in the u.s. are built by ford. ford sells seven first-responder-specific models, including the police responder hybrid sedan and the f-150 police responder. when ford introduced the new police interceptor utility in early 2019, the company emphasized how the vehicle would keep officers safe from a threatening outside world, with police perimeter alert sensors that could monitor the area around the interceptor, turning on the rear camera if the system detected potentially threatening behavior and then tracking those threats on the digital instrument cluster.

    general motors and fiat chrysler did not respond to c/d's requests for comment on whether they have received any pressure to stop building or selling police vehicles.

    we asked, but ford is not willing to make all of its internal discussions about possibly changing police vehicle sales public. however, the company did send car and driver the letter reproduced below, written by ceo jim hackett in response to the letter signed by ford employees.

    in his response, hackett thanks people—both those who signed on to the original letter as well as those who have written him privately—for raising the issue of ford's connection to the police industry at this time, but he said he does not think it makes sense to stop selling police interceptors to departments around the country. instead, he makes it clear ford will continue to walk the tightrope between stating the company intends to be "a powerful voice for black lives matter, holding ourselves accountable for significant change"—without discontinuing the production or sale of police interceptors to law-enforcement departments. you can read hackett's complete letter below.

    jim hackett huddle letter

    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:

    i. 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.

    ii. 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.

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    source:caranddriver.com