Sheriffs are campaigning to pressure Google Inc. to turn off a feature on its Wazetraffic software that warns drivers when police are nearby. They say one of the technology industry's most popular mobile apps could put officers' lives in danger from would-be police killers who can find where their targets are parked.I've already gotten into, and disengaged myself from, a "discussion" with my cousin on Facebook about this topic. I understand the "people might use it to target cops" argument, but there are lots of things out there that do that. Heck, firearms can be used to harm cops, but we can't just take those away. It's not right to take away something from the public on the grounds that someone might misuse it. And let's be blunt--someone who wants to shoot a cop for whatever reason doesn't need Waze to help them find a cop.
Waze, which Google purchased for $966 million in 2013, is a combination of GPS navigation and social networking. Fifty million users in 200 countries turn to the free service for real-time traffic guidance and warnings about nearby congestion, car accidents, speed traps or traffic cameras, construction zones, potholes, stalled vehicles or unsafe weather conditions.
I'll just say it, though--the situation with cops is out of hand. I was driving down the main thoroughfare of my small suburban city this weekend when I came upon a motorcycle officer pointing a radar/lidar gun at me. Let's just admit that that's a little disconcerting, having someone who's dressed like a stormtrooper pointing the magic gun at you, and against which you have no defense. And yes, a stormtrooper--knee-high boots, tight pants, big helmet, dark glasses. They don't look like good men and women out "to protect and to serve", they look like people out to intimidate and harass you. Pointing that radar/lidar gun at you, looking like "I'm gonna get you, motherf****er."
Yes, I know that some of the accoutrements can be explained away in the name of efficiency or officer safety. But theirs, like mine, is a job wherein you live in a fishbowl with everyone watching what you do, and appearances count. And when I see cops hiding in shadows hoping to bust someone for going over the speed limit--not like I've never seen a police car go over 40 mph on my local roads--it kind of ticks me off.
So what's wrong with Waze? I've used it exactly once, to let me know if I should get off the freeway at the next exit or if the traffic would end soon. But if people use it to report the location of speed traps, I'm ok with that. Don't you want people to slow down? Isn't that what you get if people know there's a speed trap ahead? Or do you just want to bust somebody, and bring in some revenue for the government as a bonus?
Are you naive enough to think that that isn't one of the purposes of ticketing? Perhaps you've heard about the recent strife between the NYPD and the NYC mayor; the officers have so little respect for the mayor that many turned their backs on him when he spoke at the funeral of an officer in December. Well, there's been no making up, so the police started what unions would call a "work slowdown"--they're out defending the public, but they almost stopped writing citations:
It’s a slowdown showdown.They'll look for robbers and muggers and rapists, but they cut way back on writing tickets. And they're being punished for that.
At precincts across the city, top brass are cracking the whip on summons activity and even barring many cops from taking vacation and sick days, The Post has learned.
Throughout the city, precincts are being ordered to hand up to borough commanders “activity sheets” indicating the number of arrests and summonses per shift, sources told The Post.
“Police officers around the city are now threatened with transfers, no vacation time and sick time unless they write summonses,” one union source said.
“This is the same practice that caused officers to be labeled racist and abusers of power.”
In at least one precinct, the brass backlash — which comes in the wake of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton ordering cops back on the job after The Post reported a 90 percent drop in ticket writing — is downright draconian.
“Everyone here is under orders — no time off” during the summons catch-up blitz, said one cop at the 105th Precinct in Queens.
“And the majority of [new] summonses written aren’t protecting the public in any way.
“But now they’re realizing how much revenue the city is losing and they’re enforcing their will upon us,” he said...
No one was to return to the precinct or even take a meal break until two summonses were logged, the officer said.
When politicians are too cowardly to raise taxes, they look to the police to help raise revenues. The police are being used to shake down the public, and sometimes they don't seem to mind. I’m thinking that Waze serves to protect the public from over-zealous cops and their city-hall overlords who want to raise more money for city coffers.
If police are going to abuse the public, then passive resistance is the least they should expect. I recall, but cannot find the case (does this ring a bell to anyone?) that a court (the Supreme Court?) upheld, on 1st Amendment grounds, the right of a person to hold up a sign saying "speed trap ahead". Waze is just the technological version of that sign.