LOS ANGELES, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Police across the country are expressing concern over the feature of Google's Waze GPS system that identifies the locations of patrol officers.
Departments are worried the technology could be used in targeted assaults against police. The technology is geared toward warning drivers of officers shooting radar to catch people speeding.
Anxiety over the app comes after a rising tide of anti-police sentiment following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City. Shortly after a grand jury failed to indict the officer responsible for the death of Garner, NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were ambushed and killed by Ismaiiyl Brinsley. In a letter to Google, which acquired Waze in 2013, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck noted Brinsley used the app before the crime.
"I am confident your company 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," he wrote in the letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Waze spokeswoman Julie Mossler defended the app's feature, saying the company works with law enforcement "all over the world, sharing information on road incidents and closures to help municipalities better understand what's happening in their cities in real time."
While many police officials want the feature gone, others say it is an aid.
"We want to be seen," Sgt. Heather Randol, spokeswoman for the San Jose Police Department, told the San Jose Mercury News. Part of the department's service is "being highly visible on patrol to reduce crime," she said.
San Francisco Police Department spokesman Albie Esparza said the app could be helpful in reducing road accidents.
"Someone is less likely to speed if they know a police officer is around the corner. It also helps with public safety so people know where there is an officer to get help."