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A hot potato: A group of Ford employees is asking the firm to stop making police vehicles as the Black Lives Matter protests continue around the world following the killing of George Floyd. A letter composed by both black and white workers was sent to company boss Jim Hackett asking the automotive giant to reconsider its role in building and selling cars, SUVs, and trucks to law enforcement agencies, but the CEO says Ford will continue its commitment to police forces all over the world.
Ford provides around two-thirds of the vehicles used by US police, and multiple videos have shown some officers driving them aggressively toward, and in some cases colliding with, protestors. The clip below shows an example of this behavior, which occurred in Ford’s HQ city of Detroit after the letter was sent.
"Throughout history, the vehicles that Ford employees design and build have been used as accessories to police brutality and oppression," reads the letter, according to Jalopnik. "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."
More Ford employees have since signed the letter, which calls for the company to "cease development, production, and sale of all custom police vehicles and products." It asks for some form of action to be taken by July 15.
Responding to the request, Hackett sent out an office memo defending the company’s position. "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."
"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."
Hackett suggested future Ford police vehicles will be able to protect both officers and civilians. "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," the CEO added.
Several tech giants have responded to the BLM protests. Amazon is stopping police from using its facial recognition tools, and Microsoft said it wouldn’t sell its version of the tech to law enforcement agencies. We’ve also seen companies promise to remove the terms blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave because of their racial connotations, while more firms are suspending their Facebook ads over the platform's lack of action against hate-speech, leaving Mark Zuckerberg $7 billion poorer.
Image credit: Damian Pankowiec