The members in the marching contingent representing New York’s State Troopers are unhappy that the parade grand marshal, James G. O’Connor, is tied to the Ford Motor Company.
State Police union representatives are locked in argument with Ford over the safety of Ford’s Crown Victoria cars, used by the New York force and most other police departments around the U.S.
The Crown Victoria’s have been involved in a number of fatal incidents involving law enforcement officers.
Most recently, New York State Trooper Robert Ambrose was killed on I-87 in Yonkers when his Crown Victoria’s gas tank exploded after it was rear ended by a speeding SUV. Ambrose’s family is suing Ford for $250 million.
According to the Daily News, which first reported the concern of the state troopers last week, at least 13 officers around the U.S. have died in fires following rear-impact collisions involving Crown Victorias.
Now, the New York State Police Benevolent Association has written to the parade’s executive secretary, James Barker, expressing its disappointment that the parade will be led by O’Connor, Ford’s group vice president for North America Marketing, Sales and Service.
“It is discouraging to think that a vice president of a company that has insulted police agencies and associations with its defiant stand against efforts to ensure the safety of our nation’s police officers would lead this year’s parade,” the PBA letter to Barker stated.
PBA president Dan DeFedericis told the Echo that his members viewed O’Connor’s leading role in the parade as “inappropriate.”
“They were upset over the situation but the state trooper contingent would still march in the parade because they were under orders to do so,” DeFedericis said.
At the same time, the PBA has stated that it has no personal beef with James O’Connor, just his company.
Both the New York State Police Pipe Band and the State Police Marching Escort are set to step out on Fifth Avenue in the first minutes of the parade, according to the parade official program.
DeFedericis said that Ford had roughly 80 percent of the police car market in the U.S.
But the company was not acknowledging the depth of the problem with Crown Victorias, he said.
In this regard, DeFedericis said he would direct an appeal to O’Connor to have his company look more closely at the problem.
“Ford should be very receptive and out ahead in the matter of safety for police officers,” he said.
The parade’s Barker, meanwhile, acknowledged receipt of the PBA letter. He said that the parade was not involved in the dispute between the State Police and Ford.
“We’re independent of it,” he said. “We don’t have all the facts on both sides of the issue. We’re not getting into it.”
A spokeswoman for Ford pointed to the fact that the troopers had no personal issues with O’Connor.
“And the parade is a personal engagement for him, not just a corporate one,” the spokeswoman said.
She added that Ford was always working to make police work in its cars safer.
The company believes the Crown Victoria to be a safe vehicle, she said.
The marching award to the troopers was announced the night in January that O’Connor was officially installed as grand marshal.
Parade chairman John Dunleavy made note of the fact that it was the third year in a row that the State Police had walked off with the prize.