The Dallas Police Department has announced that a city employee accidentally deleted eight terabytes of its data—a fuck-up that has now endangered an unknown amount of court cases that relied upon the data as evidence.
Worse still, the law enforcement agency and the city IT department took months to disclose the episode to other parts of the government. In fact, the city mayor’s office and the district attorney’s office say they both just found out.
According to the DPD, the data was lost during a routine data migration that occurred in early April. The city IT employee tasked with handling the process “failed to follow proper, established procedures,” which resulted “in the deletion of the data files,” the agency said, in a statement shared with Gizmodo.
Initially, 22 terabytes of data were lost but 14 terabytes were able to be recovered, the Dallas District Attorney’s Office has said. The remaining eight are considered “to be unrecoverable.” The DA’s Office says that it did not hear about the incident until August 6, after it had made inquiries as to why “pending cases were missing files.”
The lost files, which included “images, video, audio, case notes or other items collected by DPD personnel in the course of their routine daily duties,” have now thrown numerous court cases into jeopardy.
District Attorney John Creuzot has said that the “the number and identification of specific cases affected” by the incident “is currently unknown.”
Why didn’t the police department tell everybody sooner?
According to them: “It was our intention to fully evaluate whether the data was recoverable or not to know the full extent of the problem if any.”
Not everybody is satisfied with that answer. The City Mayor Eric Johnson, for instance, has asked for an investigation into the incident.
“The people of Dallas deserve answers about what happened, why top city staff kept it quiet for months, and what can be done to resolve these critical issues that affect public safety,” said Johnson in a statement. “That news is especially stunning because this problem apparently has been known to some City of Dallas officials for months—yet only came to our attention when the Dallas County District Attorney notified defense attorneys of this issue,” he added.
DA Creuzot has further stated that his office is still assessing how much damage the incident has caused: “At this time, it is too soon to estimate how many cases will be affected and what the impact will be on those individual cases.”
Actually, it looks like it’s already screwing stuff up. The Associated Press reports that a Texas man, Jonathan Pitts, was supposed to be on trial for murder this week but has now been ordered released on bond because authorities are worried that evidence germane to his case may have been in the trove of expunged data. Pitts, who is accused of shooting another man to death in 2019, will be released while prosecutors work with the police department to determine whether any data related to his case has been lost, the outlet reports.