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.

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Filed Under: lapd, police, ring, sponsorship, surveillance, video doorbells
Companies: amazon, ring


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 3:55pm

    So will they harass or protect their partners?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JBDragon (profile), 22 Jun 2021 @ 3:58pm

    No thanks!

    Just another reason why I want nothing to do with RING!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 7:27pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        smbryant (profile), 22 Jun 2021 @ 7:39pm

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

        If only there could be a 55 month gap between YOUR comments.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 7:35am

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          AC Unknown (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 10:57am

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

          Honestly, his schtick is getting older than dirt.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Jun 2021 @ 1:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 11:52am

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

        A mere FOUR comments on topic

        I'm sure at some point you'll chime in bitching about the spam filter to boost the comment count. Fool.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Jun 2021 @ 5:27pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 22 Jun 2021 @ 6:43pm

    We used to call this sort of thing bribery. Time for some creative "goodguy" lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 7:24pm

    Anyone new wondering why their comments don't show?

    -- No, aren't any new here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 7:26pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 10:32pm

        Re: Re: The answer is in the question.

        Hey Blueballs do you know why the spam filter treats you like spam?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:50am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 11:54am

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

        And lo and behold, there you are. Whining like the bitch that you are. As usual.

        I suspect you're not much fun at parties.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 1:01am

      Re:

      Like... I don't get it. You've been crowing for years that nobody new ever comes here. At this point, whether you're taken right or wrong, who do you think actually believes you? Who do you think has been won over by the side of copyright, patents and lawsuits against grandmothers?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 7:57pm

    Reasons not to buy from Amazon (Yes, by THAT Stallman.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 7:58pm

      Re: Reasons not to buy from Amazon (Yes, by THAT Stallman.)

      Yes, it's ME, so go ahead and censor Stallman by proxy...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 8:40am

        Re: Re: Reasons not to buy from Amazon (Yes, by THAT Stallman.)

        Oh shut the fuck up already. Keep it together in one post.

        And as if i need Stallman's take on it. But whatever, it's probably semi-reasonable writing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2021 @ 8:41pm

    It's amazing that between employees in a Ukrainian data centers jerking off to open feeds from people's bedrooms and the attempt to create a surveillance network to rival London's they somehow keep convincing people your security cameras should be connected to the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 2:14am

    The corruption is strong in this one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2021 @ 5:40am

    Corruption, Homelessness, Drug Abuse, Insane Taxes, that place is a mess. Perfect example of what not to do with a state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 6:12am

      Re:

      Weird. I'd have thought the perfect examples would be the states that have all those problems, but have them without the excuses of being the most populous state or the state with the largest economy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 8:24am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 24 Jun 2021 @ 12:37am

      Re: Regardless...

      "Nobody, including any police or even Ring, can view my cameras without my explicit permission"

      Are you sure about that? I mean, you're likely doing enough to get around the known exploits, but do you really trust everyone involved not to have backdoors you don't know about?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jun 2021 @ 5:20am

      Re: Regardless...

      Ring can view your cameras and show it to the cops, too. They just say they can't and you choose to take their word for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Jun 2021 @ 9:22am

    Wait for it.

    A dark person walks up to a residence, and cops grab him, and molest him, soon to find out he is a dark person living In this home, in a white neighborhood.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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