Law enforcement organizations like the National Sheriffs' Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the LAPD have spent the last week expressing concerns over Waze, a Google-owned app that allows people to crowdsource traffic data. The app just so happens to have a feature that lets users pinpoint, on a real-time map, the location of police officers.
According to some police, this feature puts their lives at risk.
“I can think of 100 ways that it could present an officer-safety issue,” said FOP director Jim Pasco. “There’s no control over who uses it. So, if you’re a criminal and you want to rob a bank, hypothetically, you use your Waze.”
Or, if you're a criminal who wants to stalk an officer with the intent to harm.
Waze has allowed users to pin locations of police on its crowdsourced maps for some time now. The main reason it’s coming up now is thanks to cop-killer Ismaaiyl Binsley, who just so happened to post a screenshot of Waze on Instagram a few weeks before he shot two NYPD officer as they sat in their car.
There’s no indication that Brinsley actually used Waze in the commission of the crime, and there have been no reported instances of Waze factoring into a crime against police.
Still, police insist that the potential is there, and this is an officer safety issue. But is it just an officer safety issue though?
According to a statement from the National Sheriffs' Association, it's also kinda sorta about speeding tickets too.
From the statement:
“While officer safety is paramount and our major concern, we are also concerned this app will have a negative effect on saving lives and with public safety activities,” said John Thompson, NSA Deputy Executive Director. The ability for individual or organized crime to track law enforcement puts every community they protect at risk! If the bad guy knows where law enforcement is all the time, it makes it much easier for them to carry out their illegal activities.
Highway deaths claim more than 30,000 lives each year. The use of radar and other speed reducing activities have helped make a substantial reduction in these numbers. This app will hamper those activities by locating law enforcement officers and puts the public at risk.
In other words, writing tickets helps keep the public safer, and Waze is screwing with that.
Waze's rather logical response to this is that the app actually aids in getting people to drive with more caution. If its users know a cop is just around the bend, they're more likely to slow down.
“These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion,” says Julie Mossler, Waze's global comms chief. “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."
The NSA, who's been the most public face of the anti-Waze campaign, is calling on Google to remove the cop-pinpointing functionality from the app.
“The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action,” says Sheriff Michael J. Brown, Bedford County, Virginia.
Whether the police groups will be successful in persuading Google to remove the police-locating feature is still up in the air. While it's being debated, Waze will continue to see more press. The app has seen a rise in its App Store popularity over the past week.
Image via Waze