Lakeland PD clarifies relationship with Ring after 'Vice' story

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The Lakeland Police Department has agreed with Amazon, the makers of the Ring doorbell, to foster the use of the product in the city.

The doorbell cameras have helped police nationwide catch porch pirates, burglars, and collect video evidence. But after national media attention, the Lakeland department is clarifying its relationship with the company.

The city now says their agreement isn't about fostering a particular brand of doorbell, but rather any tool that helps crime-fighting.

"A picture is worth a thousand words," said Chief Ruben Garcia.

He says the agreement, signed by former police chief Larry Giddens on Dec. 13, only goes so far.

Ring's memorandum of understanding (MOU) was scrutinized after news website 'Vice' posted this at noon Thursday: "Amazon requires police to shill surveillance cameras in secret agreement."

The MOU says, "Ring is proposing a solution to help reduce crime and assist with investigations."

In the MOU, Ring offers to donate cameras to LPD or to an area based on the number of downloads of Ring's app. LPD offers to promote the app and choose how free Ring cameras will be given out.

"It was a great opportunity to catch footage of what was occurring on people's doorstep while they were away at work," said Garcia.

But LPD says their goal was solely to increase crime-fighting tools in the community.

Even though the non-binding program calls for LPD to distribute 15 cameras Ring provides, here's what the chief says happened in March when they arrived.

"We sent those right back to them. We are not in the business of selling products."

Even though anyone can download and use the app, the agreement allows the department itself to log onto Ring's Neighbors app and see what users are posting.

While they do use the app, the department says they have not told anyone else to download it.

They also say the MOU has not had a measurable impact on the number of cameras out there.

"We work in conjunction and partnership with many different entities to help better our community," said Garcia.

Other departments in the area have non-binding agreements or allowed Ring or other companies to give out cameras during high-profile incidents.

Tampa partners with Ring and other camera companies to foster the use of the Neighbors app. A spokesman also said several companies provided doorbell cameras in the midst of the search for the Seminole Heights serial killer.

Clearwater also has a partnership with Ring that fosters the use of the Neighbors app.