Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck has been vocal in his concerns about the Google-owned Waze app and its feature that allows users to point out where police are. But L.A. police themselves often reveal their location on social media.
It's referred to as predictive policing information. Police elect to reveal the presence of officers by way of Twitter or other social media, and officers are aware.
In one instance, LAPD Pacific Division officers announced their whereabouts, saying they would be patrolling certain neighborhoods and maintaining high visibility.
The Sept. 30 announcement went on to say, “Along with our normal patrols, we will be out there patrolling these areas too, so if you see us, make sure to stop us and say hello.”
But, Beck said Tuesday, sometimes the public should not know where police are.
"It is not always in the public’s best interest to know where police are operating," he said.
Motorists might disagree.
Waze, which helps drivers navigate roadways and avoid traffic tie-ups, features a police button to mark the general location of officers in a vicinity.
Some Waze users say the feature helps them to avoid what they believe are ticket traps. Waze says the feature was created in partnership with law enforcement to get motorists to drive more safely.
But Beck maintains that the real-time traffic app could be used by criminals to evade police or to harm officers.
The National Sheriffs Assn. said tracking law enforcement could put everyone at risk, especially if it falls into the wrong hands.
"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,” John Thompson, the organization’s deputy executive director, said in a statement.
The organization plans to host webinars and training for its deputies on the app. Meanwhile, the group has requested a meeting with Google to push for disabling the app’s police feature.
“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,” said Sheriff Michael Brown of Bedford County, Va.
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