The Los Angeles Police Department requested protest-related security footage from Amazon Ring camera users to investigate crimes that occurred during demonstrations over the summer following the death of George Floyd, it was reported Tuesday.
A July 16 email published by The Intercept Tuesday showed that an LAPD detective asked Ring camera customers for footage captured during protests in an effort to help police identify people suspected of crimes, the news outlet reported Tuesday.
The email, which includes a message sent from Detective Gerry Chamberlain to Ring users, read, “The LAPD ‘Safe L.A. Task Force’ is asking for your help. During recent protests, individuals were injured & property was looted, damaged, and destroyed. In an effort to identify those responsible, we are asking you to submit copies of any video(s) you may have for [redacted].”
The request, sent to an unknown number of customers, tells recipients that sharing their videos is “entirely optional and will not provide the department with access to your Ring device(s).”
Due to redactions, it’s unclear where exactly police requested footage from, or during what time period, The Intercept reported.
LAPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report published by the news outlet, but Chief Michel Moore told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that seeking footage from private camera users to investigate crimes “is an important and lawful tactic.”
Moore told The Times that the department had “no interest in identifying or tracking or warehousing imagery” of people engaging in protests.
Protests and demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustices erupted following Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May. The majority were peaceful, though a small percentage resulted in violence, destruction or serious police uses of force, according to LAPD data published by the Los Angeles Times.
The nature of the request for footage raised concern for First Amendment and privacy advocates who fear the use of private surveillance of lawful activity for police purposes, according to The Intercept, which bills itself as a “news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism.”
Matthew Guariglia, a surveillance policy analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation — which initially obtained the LAPD emails — told The Intercept that “Ring requests provide an unregulated avenue through which police could theoretically use a trash can being knocked over as justification for requesting footage of 12 hours of peaceful protesting.”
A Ring spokesperson told The Intercept that the company “expressly prohibits video requests for lawful activities, such as protests.”