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Union urges troopers to stay out of patrol cars

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- The union representing New York state troopers and state police Thursday urged its members to refuse to drive Ford Crown Victoria patrol cars until the vehicles are retrofitted to protect the fuel tanks from being punctured in crashes.

The explosions that resulted when some of those vehicles were hit from behind at high speeds have killed at least 12 law enforcement officers since 1983, according to federal investigators, police groups and public interest groups.

Thursday, the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers released an advisory urging all members to refuse to drive the vehicles until they are fitted with plastic shields around the gas tanks.

The Crown Victoria is used by a majority of police officers and highway patrol officers around the United States.

Police departments in New Jersey, Texas, Arizona and Pennsylvania have sued Ford, claiming its design makes the Crown Victoria prone to explosion. On December 26, the city of Dallas filed a state lawsuit demanding all Ford's records regarding the car's safety.

Last week, an influential New York state senator called for his state to join Florida and Arizona in halting purchases of the Crown Victoria for police officers after the death of a state trooper December 19.

Trooper Robert Ambrose was killed when his patrol car exploded after an accident on the New York State Thruway in Yonkers. Two other people were killed and five more injured after a sport-utility vehicle crashed into Ambrose's vehicle.

New York state police have begun retrofitting police cars with the protective shield and expects to have all the vehicles finished by January 10. But enough vehicles have been modified so that the ones not yet retrofitted are not being driven. The New York City Police Department also plans to refit all its 1,439 Crown Victorias with the shields by January, a department spokesman said recently.

"We have a serious problem, and Ford is not dealing with that problem," Sen. Nicholas Spano, assistant majority leader of the New York State Senate, said last week.

Ford spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said in late December the company is working to solve the problem.

"We are dealing with it," she said . "It's ludicrous to think that we're not."

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