Dearborn, MI – A group of Ford Motor Company employees has demanded the company stop manufacturing and selling law enforcement vehicles.
Nearly 66 percent of the nation’s police vehicles are manufactured by Ford, the company said in a media release in January.
According to Jalopnik, a group of Ford employees known as Ford’s African-Ancestry Network (FAAN) recently discussed the idea of ending sales of vehicles to “abusive” law enforcement agencies during one of the group’s meetings.
When FAAN’s leadership declined to bring the proposition to company leaders for consideration, employees drafted and circulated their own letter to Ford chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett.
Approximately 100 employees backed the effort, according to the Detroit Free Press.
In the letter, employees declared that “the vehicles that Ford employees design and build have been used as accessories to police brutality and oppression,” Jalopnik reported.
“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,” the workers wrote.
They noted that George Floyd was “murdered by Minneapolis Police alongside a Ford Police Interceptor,” and decried incidents in which officers “drove Ford Police Interceptors into crowds of protesters,” Jalopnik reported.
“During these past weeks, our vehicles have been used to deploy chemical weapons banned by the Geneva Convention,” the employees declared.
“As an undeniable part of that history and system, we are long overdue to ‘think and act differently’ on our role in racism,” they added.
The group demanded that Ford Motor Company comply with its demands by July 15, Jalopnik reported.
“We cannot claim to support the fight against systemic racism while supplying and supporting the very systems that perpetrate violence against Black Americans,” they wrote. “We, the undersigned employees, call for Ford to cease development, production, and sale of all custom police vehicles and products. Our resources can and should be diverted to other forms of first response and public safety.”
As the letter circulated through the office, Hackett became aware and issued an internal memo to his employees, Jalopnik reported.
Hackett wrote that he and Bill Ford “believe deeply that there is no room for the systemic repression and racism that has 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,” the CEO added. “We do believe strongly that more transparency and accountability is required in police operations.”
But denouncing law enforcement as a whole is also not a solution, Hackett said.
“We also believe the first responders that protect us play an extraordinarily important role in the vitality and safety of our society,” he wrote. “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.”
Hackett said that it is “not controversial that the Ford Police Interceptor helps officers do their job,” Jalopnik reported.
“The issues plaguing police credibility have nothing to do with the vehicles they’re driving,” he added. “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.”
Hackett said that Fort will not stop making and selling law enforcement vehicles, and argued that the company is in a “unique position to support the dialogue and reform needed to create safer communities for all.”
Ford Chief Communications Officer Mark Truby said that the company wants “to hear and listen to all employees, understand their points of view and be transparent about the actions and positions we are taking,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
“It’s a healthy dialogue,” Truby added.
Ford Motor Company has also denied allegations that it has contributed millions of dollars to police defunding, Heavy reported.
The donations were made by the Ford Foundation, which Ford Motor Company said it has no control over.
The entities have operated separately since the mid-1970s, according to Heavy.
Ford Motor Company does have a charitable branch, the Ford Motor Company Fund, which also did not make any donations to police defunding efforts, according to the company.
“[Neither] Ford Motor Company nor the Ford Motor Company Fund has provided funding to any campaign to ‘defund the police,’” the auto manufacturer told Heavy in a statement.
“To be clear, Ford believes racism, abuse of power and repression in law enforcement must be addressed and stamped out wherever they exist,” the statement read. “Good law enforcement agencies and officers play a critical positive role in our communities, but safety and fairness must be inclusive of all, everywhere.”
But for the first time in over 40 years, a Ford employee and member of the Ford family now sits on the Ford Foundation’s Board of Trustees, The National Pulse reported.
Henry “Sonny” Ford has been on the board since February of 2019. He is also the head of investor relations for Ford Motor Company.
“Although we were established to be an independent institution, our recent efforts in southeastern Michigan have marked a reconnection with the Ford family, coming full circle with Henry’s election to our board,” Ford Foundation President Darren Walker said at the time, according to The National Pulse.
Henry Ford has said he is “extremely proud” of the work the Ford Foundation has been doing since he joined the board.
Since 2016, the Ford Foundation has provided approximately $7.8 million to Black Lives Matter and other groups pushing to defund police throughout the nation, The National Pulse reported.