URGENT NOTICE TO MEMBERS An agent in San Diego Sector was surprised when he went to fasten his seatbelt in a Ford Crown VIctoria and the seatbelt was no longer secured to the vehicle. Upon closer inspection, the bolt that secured the retractable section of the seatbelt was lying on the floor of the vehicle. In addition, the bolt securing the retractable section of the passenger’s seatbelt was also loose and ready to fall off.
Upon further review, the union learned that the original design and integrity of the seatbelts were compromised when the cage was installed in the vehicle by Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI) . In order to install the cage, the retractable sections of the driver’s and passenger’s seatbelts were removed. After the cage was installed, the retractable seatbelts were installed again using the same bolts, but this time they were installed over an added section of sheet metal, which is approximately ¼ of an inch thick.
As a result, NBPC Local 1613 expressed concerns about this issue during the San Diego Sector, union/management Health and Safety Committee. In addition, the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) informed the Office of Border Patrol about the issue. In order to properly address this dangerous issue, the NBPC believes the Border Patrol should:
1. Immediately notify all employees of this dangerous situation and ground all Crown Victorias until such time that a complete and thorough inspection of the seatbelts is conducted;
2. Investigate the original order for the modifications to determine who authorized compromising the design and integrity of the seatbelts;
3. Require FPI to prove the modification was authorized by Ford or present substantial evidence to prove the modification does not jeopardize the original design and integrity of the seatbelts;
4. If proven that the modification was authorized by Ford or is safe, FPI shall be responsible for immediately taking whatever corrective action is necessary to prevent the bolts from loosening in the future and to maintain the integrity of the seatbelts; and
5. Notify all employees of the corrective actions taken to resolve this critical situation.
Until notified otherwise, agents should conduct an inspection of the retractable seatbelts every time a Crown Vic is the assigned vehicle and until the Border Patrol notifies every employee of the measures that were taken by FPI to resolve this critical situation and ensure the integrity of the seatbelts.
NOTE: The union was informed that the modifications were performed by FPI and does not know if Ford approved the modifications or is aware of the modifications. Additionally, it is not known how many other agencies use FPI for similar modifications to Crown Vics.