Real-time traffic app Waze's police spotting feature is a deterrent for dangerous driving, not a tool that can "track" police officers, company officials said in response to concerns from the Los Angeles police chief.
In a Dec. 30 letter to Google, which acquired Waze in 2013, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck wrote that by pointing out police locations, the app compromises officer safety, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Times.
Beck noted that in the days before Ismaaiyl Brinsley killed New York Police Department Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Dec. 20, he used the application to monitor police movements.
But in a statement, Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler said the app is actually welcomed by many law enforcement agencies and keeps citizens "safe."
"We think very deeply about safety and security and work in partnership with the NYPD and other police and departments of transportation all over the world … to help municipalities better understand what's happening in their cities in real time. These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion," Mossler said. "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 police-spotting feature allows users to drop an icon on a map indicating the rough location an officer was spotted, but it cannot "track" them or give an exact location, she said.
Beck voiced his concerns as resentment of law enforcement has spiked following the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland, Los Angeles and New York City.
The Associated Press, which first reported on police concerns about Waze, wrote that the issue was raised at a National Sheriff's Assn. meeting in Washington.
At the meeting, Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Va., called on Google to "act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action."