The mobile app Waze (owned by Google) has become a resource for many drivers around the country. The app works by utilizing user input to warn other drivers of heavy traffic areas, accidents, red light cameras, or police presence in an area. It’s the latter feature that has police wanting Google to change the app in order to prevent officers from being placed in dangerous situations.
USA Today reports that many police officers, including Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, are concerned with the police tracking feature. In a letter he wrote to Google, Beck voiced his concern that the feature could be misused by criminals in an attempt to harm police. He also claims that Waze was used in the slaying of two police officers in New York City in December of 2014. President of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police Sgt. Javier Ortiz also believes that the app “puts [police officers] at risk, puts the public at risk, because it’s going to cause more deadly force encounters between law enforcement and suspects.”
Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler released a statement saying that the app works with police departments in regards to sharing information. “These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion,” Mossler said. Waze’s developers informed NBC 6 Miami that, “Police partners support Waze and its features, including reports of police presence, because most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby.”
In Miami, the police department is encouraging its officers to fight back against the feature by submitting incorrect data to the app. Hundreds of Miami police officers have taken matters into their own hands, downloading the app and flooding it with false police sightings, according to Engadget.
Some police officers, however, remain unconcerned. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he is not worried about the app threatening the safety of his officers. “If someone is suffering mental illness and they want to commit a heinous crime or hunt a deputy or a police officer; they don’t need Waze to do that,” Israel said.