Is Waze a Threat to Cops?

The community-based app warns drivers about traffic—but is it also a threat to law enforcement?

group of cops in uniform

One December afternoon in late 2014, Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two NYPD police officers before committing suicide in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy neighborhood. But before Brinsley shot the officers, he may have tracked movements among NYPD cops using community-traffic app Waze. According to Slate, “The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, does not seem to have used Waze to locate the two officers he killed (because he was not carrying his smartphone for a few hours prior to his attack), but he did use the Waze police-tracking function in December and even posted screencaps of it to his Instagram.”

By tracking the location of officers, could Waze be putting them in danger?

Then, on December 30th of 2014, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck sent Google—the relatively new owners of Waze, who acquired the company for north of $1 billion back in 2013—a letter asking to “open a dialogue” about the potential dangers to law enforcement from Waze. Beck writes: “I am confident your compnay did not intend the Waze app to be a means to allow those who wish to commit crimes to use the unwitting Waze community as their lookouts for the location of police officers. While the app contains data that provides commuters with areas of construction, road hazards, it also provides police locations. I now know that Mr. Brinsley had been using the Waze app since early December to track the location of police.”

The Response from Waze

This week, Waze responded to the LAPD and other law enforcemnt personnel concerns by saying that, in fact, many law enforcemnt agencies welcome Waze and that the app helps keep citizens “safe.”

In a statement, Waze spokesman told the LA Times, “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.”

So what do you think—is Waze a potential danger to cops? Or is the law encforcement response an overreaction?

  • clarklab

    Poor cops, being years behind on things. Is reporting the location of an officer illegal? Or even generally frowned upon?