Please Welcome The Los Angeles Police Department (Brought To You In Part By A Generous Grant From Ring)

from the RTs-are-possibly-endorsements dept

Amazon’s doorbell-camera acquisition, Ring, has captured a large segment of the home security market. Part of its growth is due to its long list of law enforcement partnerships. Coupled with the rollout of its companion app, Neighbors, Ring has been handing out cameras to cops… who then hand out these complimentary cameras to local homeowners.

Strings are attached — some explicit and some implicit. The implicit strings connect cops to citizens: the assumption recipients of discounted or free cameras will allow officers to access recordings without having to bother the courts with a warrant request.

The explicit strings tie up cops, making them brand ambassadors for Ring and its ever-expanding network of cameras. If cops want cheap cameras and the access to recordings those might provide, they have to become Ring’s unofficial spokespeople.

Public records show Ring has required police departments to assign employees to act as press and social media liaisons in the new partnership with Ring. Ring controls PR efforts and public statements. It also dangles its wifi-connected carrot: more signups for Ring’s Neighbors app means more free cameras for cops.

This unhealthy relationship between Ring and law enforcement is detailed in a recent LA Times article by Johana Bhuiyan. Thousands of dollars of cameras were handed out to LAPD officers in exchange for their promotion and distribution of Ring’s products.

Ring provided at least 100 LAPD officers with one or more free devices or discount codes and encouraged them to recommend the company’s web-connected doorbells and security cameras, emails reviewed by The Times reveal. In more than 15 cases, emails show that officers who received free gadgets or discounts promoted Ring products to fellow police officers or members of the public.

Officers asked for cameras, passing them on to other officers, friends and family members, as well as local homeowners. As more devices were activated, Ring sent emails congratulating the most proactive officers and promising even more free gear if this continued.

This would be problematic even without potential violations of LAPD guidelines. This is Ring using a government agency as a distribution center and advertising agency. And this is a government agency willingly performing both of those tasks in exchange for even more Ring brand evangelism.

But this back-and-forth, along with exchanges of activations for more free products, seemingly violates the LAPD’s policies. However, it appears Ring and the officers were cognizant of the guidelines and worked together to ensure they weren’t violated.

LAPD rules restrict the acceptance of gifts that could be seen as an attempt to influence the actions of officers. After a preliminary review of the emails, the department said officers did not appear to have violated agency rules.

An agency spokesperson said that although accepting free devices and personally recommending those products to community members did not violate the LAPD code of ethics, a paid endorsement would run afoul of agency rules.

That isn’t to say the actions of everyone involved were above-board and above reproach. Staying within the guidelines frequently meant straying right up to the edge of them. It also meant finding ways to influence officers to continue pushing Ring’s products without crossing that line. It appears LAPD supervisors believe the only form of payment that’s unacceptable is cash. Anything else — no matter its effect on officers and their actions — adheres to the letter of the law while mostly ignoring its spirit.

Here are few examples of Ring/LAPD interactions the LAPD considers to be acceptable:

Officer Eric Mollinedo from the Olympic division emailed Ring’s director of operations, August Cziment, asking for promo codes as well as information about receiving a unit for his home. Mollinedo said he’d be manning a booth at an upcoming public safety fair. Cziment said Ring would get him “going with flyers, as well as a unit.” Ring also provided Mollinedo a coupon code and encouraged him to distribute it to his colleagues.

[…]

Sgt. Justin Scott exchanged a series of emails with Cziment about an offer for a free stick-up camera. Ring asked him to share the offer with his entire West L.A. station. […] Later that month, Scott ran promotional language by the company before sending it to fellow officers, emailing Cziment a block of text about the stick-up camera offer for his approval. Cziment replied, “Looks great! Keep me updated on how it all goes.”

In Scott’s case, the free camera offer resulted in responses from 60 officers. Some asked for discount codes for themselves and family members. Others asked if they were still eligible for a prior Ring giveaway. Another officer approached Ring directly, asking for the “donation” of a free camera to be raffled off at a station social function. Ring obliged.

Ring has since abandoned its guideline-skirting “brand ambassador” program with the LAPD. These partnerships are still in place elsewhere in the nation. Ring has always been happy to tout its tight relationships with law enforcement agencies even though its cameras — despite the company’s hefty market share — have done little to reduce crime rates. The company may have made some better decisions in recent weeks — like requiring law enforcement requests for footage to be made publicly through its online portal — but it’s certainly not interested in slowing the spread of its product.

Ring has relied on law enforcement to expand its market base for years. It’s not going to completely abandon that plan just because some of its more unseemly aspects have been exposed.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: amazon, ring

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Please Welcome The Los Angeles Police Department (Brought To You In Part By A Generous Grant From Ring)”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
29 Comments

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No thanks! -- SEZ the ZOMBIE!

JBDragon: 301 (30), 55 month gap to ’21; 14 Apr 2011 https://www.techdirt.com/user/jbdragon — !!! KNEW had not missed 301 comments!

A mere FOUR comments on topic (to there: until the leading maniac, reliable dull "That One Guy" rambles), ALL trivial one-liners, and the one "account" is blatant astro-turfing. You should have shut this "blog" down years ago, Maz.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: No thanks! -- SEZ the ZOMBIE!

…and once again Baghdad Bob shows up with his "killer" move of claiming that everyone who hasn’t posted on this blog for a while must be an astroturfer.

Aren’t you going to follow that up with your customary claim that Techdirt’s hypothetical astroturfers are all funded by the CIA on behalf of Google?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No thanks! -- SEZ the ZOMBIE!

"…his schtick is getting older than dirt."

The irony of it? Baghdad Bob himself is that one guy we caught red-handed back on Torrentfreak building himself a one-man army of sock puppets to back his own claims up with.

I usually assume his clinging to Tor and cycling his ip all the time is because failing to do so the last time was what clued us all in that his fan club of a dozen accounts was in fact just plain old him to begin with…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Splitting hairs on the molecular level

An agency spokesperson said that although accepting free devices and personally recommending those products to community members did not violate the LAPD code of ethics, a paid endorsement would run afoul of agency rules.

‘If you give an officer cash with the intent that they do/don’t do something that’s a bribe and not acceptable, but if you give them otherwise expensive electronics with the promise that if they shill good enough you’ll give them more stuff that’s totally okay.’

Yeah, that excuse strikes me as coming from someone who really didn’t want to rock the boat and put a stop to all those neat ‘free’ items their buddies were getting.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anyone new wondering why their comments don't show?

It’s because Techdirt has the apparently open comment box locked down behind the scenes. This is a recent 2021 change because Techdirt just can’t stand anyone dissenting to Masnick’s corporatism — eXpecially complaints about limiting speech on supposedly "private" sites — despite their form contract of free to all — de facto censorship.


HA! Tactic worked! — This after MUCH trying to get in on "Funnies" to report this ZOMBIE:

Jesse C. Anderson: 25 (2), 6 year 4 month gap to 1 word; 38 month gap to 2014; 15 Jun 2008 https://www.techdirt.com/user/jjesse285

IN-CRED-IB-LE that someone waits SIX YEARS to make a one word comment. This is ASTRO-TURFING by Techdirt.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Anyone new wondering why their comments don't show?

What’s funny is that you complain about "astroturfing" as if occasional posts by irregular accounts is somehow inflating the traffic here.

Yet, between your false conspiracy claims and your arguments with the spam filter, you provide way more traffic and engagement here than the accounts you complain about.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Ed (profile) says:

Regardless...

I like my Ring cameras. Nobody, including any police or even Ring, can view my cameras without my explicit permission or a valid court order (the same for ANY camera made by anyone). I do not participate in the "Neighbors" app, I found it annoying and useless, so nobody in my neighborhood is seeing my cameras, either. But Ring does provide excellent customer service, and the cameras are great, responsive, and do what I want them to do: allow ME to monitor the outside of my home.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...