Traffic app maker Waze rejects criticism by L.A. police chief

January 27, 2015, 10:27 PM UTC
Heavy traffic at rush hour on the Interstate 10 Freeway in Los Angeles, California
Photograph by Jonathan Alcorn — Bloomberg via Getty Images

(Reuters) – Responding to the Los Angeles police chief, who complained that its popular traffic app could be misused by criminals to track officers, a spokeswoman for Waze said on Tuesday that the company worked with law officers to make them safer.

Julie Mossler, head of global communications for Waze, said company officials “think very deeply about safety and security” and work closely with police and transportation departments around the world.

“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.”

Acquired by Google in 2013 for $966 million, Waze uses GPS and social networking to alert drivers to accidents, traffic snarls and the presence of police, signaled by a little cop icon on a map. It reportedly has 50 million users worldwide.

But in a letter sent to Google (GOOG) on Dec. 30, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck complained about the police locator feature, claiming it could be “misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community.”

In the letter, released this week, Beck also said accused gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley had used the Waze app in the days before an ambush of New York officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on December.

“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,” Beck wrote.

Brinsley had a screenshot from the app on his Instagram account along with anti-cop slurs posted just hours before the two officers were shot dead in a parked squad car in Brooklyn, according to published reports.

But New York authorities have not directly linked the use app to the ambush.