Does Waze put police officers' lives at risk?

Last Updated Jan 29, 2015 4:48 PM EST

Some law enforcement officers want to put the brakes on a feature of a popular navigation app, Waze, arguing that it puts officers' lives at risk.

Nearly 50 million drivers across the U.S. use Waze to avoid traffic and find the road less traveled. Adam Hoggatt uses it to cut 10 minutes off his Los Angeles commute, but he discovered the app could also help him avoid speeding tickets.

"Waze is showing me that there is a police up ahead," Hoggatt said in his YouTube video.

He posted the video online to teach other drivers how to use Waze to find speed traps.

"I see something ahead. And Bingo! Somebody got pulled over!" Hoggatt said in the video. "There you go. I guess that's proof, positive that Waze works."

The Waze map is full of little icons. The little mustached men with blue hats represent the locations where a user has spotted a police officer. If you click on it, you can find out exactly where and when they were located.

That's exactly what concerns law enforcement officers.

"You have to constantly weigh, what is the value of information you're putting out versus the risk that it creates?" Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said.

Beck recently wrote a letter to Google, which owns Waze, claiming the app "...poses a danger to the lives of police officers in the United States."

He asked the company to disable the police alert function after reports surfaced that Ismaaiyl Brinsley used the Waze app to track police before he killed two officers in New York City last month.

Even though investigators do not believe the app was directly linked to the crime, some in law enforcement are concerned that Waze can help criminals.

"It becomes a tool for the people that would break the law," said John Thompson, deputy executive director of the National Sheriffs' Association.

This week the National Sheriffs' Association asked to meet with Google.

"We want to make it harder for every criminal to commit a crime and everything that we can do to slow them down and stop them is in our best interest," Thompson said.

To get a better understanding of where drivers stand, CBS News asked its social media followers what they think about law enforcement officials' opinion on the app.

The majority didn't feel that the app puts officers in danger -- at least not in any more danger than they'd normally be in.

"The job itself puts them at risk," one user commented on CBS News' Facebook post.

Some people believe officers are using the purported danger as an excuse to put the kibosh on an app that could be cutting into their speeding ticket numbers. "It puts traffic cops quotas and tax collecting at risk -- that's their problem with Waze," one commenter said on Facebook.

"They hate anything that reduces their revenue," another user averred. "It's not about safety it's about money."

Despite the overwhelming disagreement with police, some users said they understood why cops should be concerned. "Waze can help criminals easily get away from police," one person posited on Twitter.

Another, in apparent reference to the idea that would-be cop killers like Brinsley could use the app to locate their targets, lamented that there are a lot of "sick, evil people in this world." A Facebook user agreed, saying law enforcement officials' privacy is more important than any civilian's and should be protected at all costs.

Another user countered: "People always know where I am when I'm at work."

Google hasn't announced plans to make any changes to Waze, and in a statement the company said many of its police partners support the app "...because most users tend to drive more carefully when they believe law enforcement is nearby."

Hoggatt said the app changes his driving pattern.

"Definitely give the speedometer a quick glance and slow down when that happens," Hoggatt said.

He said police are already exposed on the road. Waze just helps him avoid getting a ticket from them.

"There he is. Now, if I hadn't been paying attention, I, you know, could have found myself going a little too fast," Hoggatt said.