Ford CEO Jim Hackett defended the automaker's decision to make and sell police interceptor vehicles following concerns from the company's employees, according to an internal memo obtained by FOX Business.
Hackett stressed that both he and chairman Bill Ford "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," he said. "We do believe strongly that more transparency and accountability is required in police operations."
He added that recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd have brought "a very intensive and necessary spotlight on police training and reform."
However, he believes it is "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," Hackett said. "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."
Hackett argued that putting an end to law enforcement use of Police Interceptors would "be doing harm to [police officers'] safety and making it harder for them to do their job."
"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 said.
As a result, Hackett said Ford would "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," Hackett said. "Thank you for caring so deeply about the Company and our people, and for all you do for Ford."
Ford employees originally sent a letter to leadership asking the company to “cease development, production, and sale of all custom police vehicles and products,” according to Jalopnik. They asked the company to take action by July 15.
"Our resources can and should be diverted to other forms of first response and public safety," the letter reportedly said.
In addition, employees alleged that, throughout history, "the vehicles that Ford employees design and build have been used as accessories to police brutality and oppression" and that days after Floyd's death, "police officers drove Ford Police Interceptors into crowds of protesters in New York City and Los Angeles."
"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 added. "As an undeniable part of that history and system, we are long overdue to 'think and act differently' on our role in racism."
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The news comes a month after the company addressed the killing of Floyd, in which leadership stressed their commitment to racial and social justice.
"There are no easy answers. We are not interested in superficial actions," Ford and Hackett wrote. "This is our moment to lead from the front and fully commit to creating the fair, just and inclusive culture that our employees deserve."
An earlier version of this story was updated to include direct reporting of Ford's internal memo regarding the police interceptors.
Fox Business staff writer Evie Fordham contributed to this report.