Local law enforcement leaders react to Ring no longer allowing police video requests

Friday, January 26, 2024
Local law enforcement reacts to Ring no longer allowing video requests
Local law enforcement reacts to Ring no longer allowing video requests

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley law enforcement leaders are weighing in on a new policy denying law enforcement access to Ring video through the company's app.

"The efficiency and effectiveness of video surveillance is directly connected with police access to it," said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.

Balderrama is hitting back at Ring, the Amazon-owned company that makes the popular video doorbells and security cameras.

On Wednesday, the company said it's no longer allowing police departments to request doorbell videos from users on its Neighbors social media platform.

In a blog post, Ring said, in part:

"Public safety agencies like fire and police departments can still use the Neighbors app to share helpful safety tips, updates, and community events. They will no longer be able to use the (Request for Assistance) tool to request and receive video in the app."

It's the second notable change to how Ring has handled police requests in recent years.

Just two years ago, the company made such requests visible to the public.

But now, Ring says those requests must stop altogether.

Law enforcement can no longer ask for the video through Ring's platform.

Balderrama calls the change "highly disappointing and detrimental" and says it will hinder investigations right here in Fresno.

"It does us no good if a crime occurs and we don't have the video images to make a case. I can tell you that most people are very happy with the fact that we are able to go out there and obtain this type of video," said Balderrama.

While the chief is pushing back, some privacy groups and digital rights activists are applauding Ring's move.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation says the change is a victory against police surveillance and helps prevent law enforcement from accessing private data without a court's order.

"The way the policy worked before is that the videos that were taken could be readily accessible to law enforcement, really anyone else through the ring app. This is really the invasion of someone's privacy. There's no question about that," added Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi.

Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama is speaking out against a new policy denying law enforcement access to Ring video through the company's app.

Officers can still ask citizens to turn over the doorbell video voluntarily, and they can still get it through a court's subpoena. But Chief Balderrama says time is often of the essence.

"It's a legal process. It's gonna delay. When we have a known killer, a known rapist, a known gang member that just shot somebody, and we're trying to get them off the streets, it's critical that we get that information to detectives immediately," said Balderrama.

Technology like Ring cameras was not always around in the past.

While agencies still have the ability to ask homeowners for the video, they say it comes down to the trust they build in their neighborhoods.

"We still did a lot of the investigative work we still had to do work, a lot of boots on the ground, a lot of just knocking on doors to obtain information," said Reedley Police Chief Joe Garza.

"Cameras do help, they help significantly, they are a game changer for us. I would just hope that we don't lose that ability, and we don't lose the relationship that we have with our communities in order to get that information."

Lt. Jim Koch with the Clovis Police Department says officers will continue working with the community to get video for investigations.

"Most of the citizens in our city want to work with us as much as possible, and any time we need any video, we just go to their house, and they are able to upload it. It's a very simple process," said Koch.

For now, the change only impacts the Ring line of cameras, although other companies like Nest could follow suit and require a warrant before turning over user's data.

For news updates, follow Gabe Ferris on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For news updates, follow Brianna Willis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Related Topics