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Ford CEO Counters Employees' Claim That Company 'Perpetuated' Systemic Racism, Responds to Anti-Cop Demand

It’s a particularly good day when I don’t come across an article that talks about The Great Reckoning™ we’re all having. It isn’t just the general fatuousness of the targets; reckoning-centric articles usually are bloated exercises in faulty logic and stilted verbiage.
It’s always worse if the word “reckoning” is in a headline, so imagine my joy when I saw the Jalopnik piece “America’s Great Racial Reckoning Comes To The Auto Industry As Some Ford Employees Call For End Of Cop Car Manufacturing.”
It took us only two-plus months from the death of George Floyd to think that our first responders shouldn’t have vehicles.
Good work, America.
The article Wednesday by Aaron Foley is a relatively sprawling piece of opinion journalism, touching on a panoply of issues, from Henry Ford’s history of racist crankery to the company’s decision to move some of its workforce back into the city, a move some say will lead to gentrification. The story meanders a lot — it’s almost 3,000 words — and manages to be somewhat more interesting than your average reckoning piece.
Take that as you will.
The launching point for Foley’s piece is a letter being circulated for signatures at Ford’s headquarters. The letter implies that the undersigned want the company to exit the police vehicle market because the vehicles perpetuate systemic racism.
“On June 1st, you communicated to the company your commitment to ‘lead from the front and fully commit to creating the fair, just and inclusive culture that our employees deserve,’ ” the letter to Ford CEO Jim Hackett and company chairman Bill Ford read.
“We thank you for your leadership on this initiative. We also appreciate and fully support your statement against ‘superficial actions,’ and we write to push for real action by Ford Motor Company to address our role in the structures that perpetuate racism in society.
“On May 25th, 2020 George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police, alongside a Ford Police Interceptor. Days later, police officers drove Ford Police Interceptors into crowds of protesters in New York City and Los Angeles,” the letter continued. “During these past weeks, our vehicles have been used to deploy chemical weapons banned by the Geneva Convention.
“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.”
These are all curious arguments when you consider police vehicles are, the vast majority of the time, not being “used as accessories to police brutality and oppression.”
When someone overdoses on fentanyl, police vehicles speed to the scene. When there’s a domestic abuse call, police vehicles go there. When there’s an armed robber involved in a chase with police on the highway, police cruisers chase them. I understand the current vogue for shifting police functions to social workers, but clearly this still means police would need cars — and someone needs to provide them.
Anyway, Hackett apparently found out about the letter and moved to nip it in the bud.
“First, it should be clear both Bill Ford and I believe deeply that there is no room for the systemic repression and racism that have been exhibited by law enforcement encounters gone wrong,” Hackett said in a memo. “We’ve said clearly that Black Lives Matter, and I am personally driving a review of our Diversity and Inclusion rituals, practices and behaviors. We do believe strongly that more transparency and accountability is required in police operations.
“Second, we also believe the first responders that protect us play an extraordinarily important role in the vitality and safety of our society,” Hackett and Ford continued. “Our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and serve. But safety of community must be inclusive of all members, and today, it is not.
“Holding these two thoughts together in one’s mind is possible, but now there is tension. It’s our belief the recent issues surfacing from the George Floyd tragedy are bringing a very intensive and necessary spotlight on police training and reform. In fact, I sit on the Business Roundtable, an organization comprised of CEOs from America’s leading companies, which has committed its shared energy to the work on police training and reform.”
Hackett’s memo went on to note Ford’s police vehicles are, well, effective. And that’s a good thing.
“It’s not controversial that the Ford Police Interceptor helps officers do their job,” Hackett wrote.
“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.
“By taking away our Police Interceptors, we would be doing harm to [the officers’] 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.”
This was met with consternation by Foley, who wasn’t particularly happy with the idea of the police having more technology or with the wording Hackett used.
“I’m not a marketing whiz, but I am Black with common sense, and I don’t think it’s wise for Ford to try to ‘leverage’ deaths of Black people to make better police cars,” Foley wrote, which sounds like the opposite of the point Hackett was trying to make — the CEO seems to be saying the company’s position as the dominant force in the police vehicle market puts Ford in a unique position to influence our cultural discussion on policing.
It’s rare that a CEO gets it as right as Hackett did, “leverage” controversies and all. Someone is going to make police cars. Our police aren’t going anywhere, no matter how much the left wants to defund them or replace them with social workers. And, as long as the police exist, they aren’t going to respond to calls on bicycles.
There’s no particular win for social justice by making it harder for police to get vehicles or by not integrating technology in those vehicles. If done correctly, that arguably would make police more accountable.
And, yes, as Hackett says, “Our world wouldn’t function without the bravery and dedication of the good police officers who protect and serve.”
That’s an unpopular thing to say right now, which is why Hackett quickly qualified it by saying that “safety of community must be inclusive of all members, and today, it is not.” However, the first part was a pretty unequivocal statement not many are willing to make right now.
Foley seems to believe that “keeping police vehicles in production would certainly mean more tension between Black employees and management internally, and now, a negative image externally.”
There are several problems with that, including the idea that black people think monolithically about law enforcement. The biggest problem, however, is the idea that it would create a negative image externally.
Perhaps in the bubble of Jalopnik — part of the same group that runs liberal outlets like The Onion, Jezebel and The Root — that logic holds. I would guess that most people want police to be effective, however. The Ford employees who signed this letter don’t.
And at least for now, they’ve lost.

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