The “Defund the Police” almost became the “De-Ford the Police” movement. Employees of the Ford Motor Company recently sent a letter to senior leadership requesting that the company “cease development, production, and sale of all custom police vehicles and products” by July 15.
Ford CEO, James Hackett and Chairman, Bill Ford, had the good sense to rebuff the suggestion in a carefully worded memo to senior staff.
The employee letter decried the presence of Ford Police Interceptor vehicles at the scene of George Floyd’s killing and in efforts to disperse crowds of protesters and rioters in the aftermath, including claims of officers driving “into crowds of protesters” in New York and Los Angeles.
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.Excerpt from letter written by some Ford employees to Ford senior leadership
In his written response, Hackett echoed pride in Ford’s 100-year history of making vehicles for first responders and pledged to continue supporting law enforcement with smarter police vehicles that help ensure the safety of police and the public, while also helping to hold police accountable. Hackett reiterated Ford’s support for Black Lives Matter and thanked employees for their continued commitment and willingness to speak their mind.
“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.”Ford CEO, James Hackett, in his response to employee calls to cease production of police vehicles.
As much as this story seems to be satire dreamed up by writers at The Onion or The Babylon Bee, it is not. This actually happened at one of the oldest and proudest companies in America. One can assume that these employees also don’t want any other automaker supplying vehicles to the police. They want to enhance the “defund the police” movement by first burning their vehicles, then by cutting off the supply chain for new ones. I hope Ford enhances their quality inspection program, because employees making Police Interceptors against their will may be tempted to sabotage the product.
This is one more ludicrous link in the chain swinging the wrecking ball of social and political upheaval. Are there racist police officers? Yes, there are bad seeds in the nation’s police force just like there are in other industries, including autoworkers. Is police reform needed? Sure, there are departments that need reform. There are tactics that need review. And there are officers that need to be retrained or fired. Does that mean we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and just scrap the whole idea of policing?
Look at what has happened in places where police have been sidelined, defunded or otherwise weakened. Minneapolis was practically destroyed. Shootings have exponentially increased in New York City, and part of downtown Seattle became a lawless “no-go” zone for a month. Police precincts have been burned down and overrun. Businesses have been looted. People have been raped and killed in the middle of city streets. We need police now more than ever. There will never be a time when we don’t. Police should perpetually train, adapt and improve, and they need the continued support (financially and politically) of mayors, city councils and government at all levels to do that.
Consider the impact on Ford and its employees if they abandoned the nation’s police departments. Ford makes two-thirds of America’s police cars and trucks – about 35,000 per year. That’s about 1.5% of the total vehicles Ford sells in a year. So it’s not an overwhelming amount. Ford employs 190,000 people. One and a half percent of 190,000 is 2,850 employees. Kind of sounds like a big number now doesn’t it? There’s also the public relations value of being the preferred provider of police cars. That’s worth millions to Ford.
So CEO Hackett and Chairman Ford should have the appreciation and respect of all Ford employees for failing to bow to the unreasonable requests of the few. They know it’s not only wrong to abandon our nation’s police. They also know it’s bad business and bad PR. It would be bad for Ford and it would be bad for Ford’s employees. To be sure, there are plenty of self-serving reasons for Ford to continue partnering with police departments. But in light of many companies and organizations pulling products, erasing familiar trademarks and abandoning law enforcement agencies, it’s refreshing to see Ford stay the common sense course for their business and for the police.