Waze is for avoiding police, not killing them

There's not much evidence to support the claim that Waze endangers police, but the little route planning app could still upend policing.

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  1. Last month, sheriffs demanded that Google remove what they called the "police stalker" feature from the Waze app. There's little evidence that Waze's police reporting feature actually endangers them. Even so, the the app is a potential game changer for law enforcement, for better or for worse.
  2. Waze, at its core, is just a route-planning app that helps drivers find the fastest way to their destination. But its police reporting features lets users mark the location of speed traps and DUI checkpoints, and it's this feature that has police worried, particularly since the shooting of two NYPD officers in December.
  3. "As I am sure you are aware, Ismaaiyl Brinsley used the Waze application to track the movement of law enforcement prior to his assassination of Officers Ramos and Liu," LAPD Chief of Police, Charlie Beck, wrote to Google in December.
  4. But even the investigators on the Brinsley case don't think he used the app to kill the officers, in part because he ditched his phone more than two miles away from the scene. And Beck himself later clarified that he didn't think Brinsley actually used the app in this case, only that it "could" be used in this way. But that hasn't stopped some departments from fighting the app, with Miami police recently bombarding the app with false reports.
  5. Some on Twitter ridiculed the police for overreacting:
  6. Many Waze fans say the real problem police have with Waze isn't their safety. "The only reason cops care about #waze is because it makes it harder for them to generate revenue for bullshit tickets," @nickglovannetti tweeted on February 6th.
  7. Indeed, in 2009 California police officers earned around $30 million in overtime pay for DUI blitzes, while impounds generated about $40 in revenue, according to an investigation by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley in collaboration with California Watch.
  8. So Waze could seriously cut into police revenue.
  9. And even if it doesn't put police in mortal danger, this route-planning app could ever so slightly shift the balance of power between police and the rest of us. It's something anti-police groups have been aware of for a while. For example, cop watching groups have advocated the use of apps like Waze to keep tabs on police.
  10. A post on Cop Block's website recommends using Waze for Cop Watch patrols: "This could be done by either actively reporting speed traps and checkpoints or by using reports from other users to locate active stops and then recording the proceedings."
  11. "This option also allows activists to send out witty messages to their fellow travelers, such as, 'warning: state mercenaries extorting civilians near exit 7,'" writer John Vibes quips.
  12. Not everyone agrees avoiding cops is a good thing, particularly when it comes to DUI checkpoints.
  13. Responding to a post touting Waze's police-reporting feature, @thehowlingwind was unimpressed:
  14. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) seem to agree. When Mr. Checkpoint, another service that alerted drivers to DUI checkpoints, started drawing publicity in 2013, MADD was dubious, arguing that it undermines efforts to control drunk driving: "While we support the publication of checkpoints as a deterrent to drunk driving, sites like MrCheckpoint [sic] alert drunk drivers so they can evade arrest. It's not meant as a positive."
  15. But there could be legitimate reasons for avoiding checkpoints. Many just find the experience unpleasant.
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